A spray paint can and stencil are proving to be powerful tools in the Friends campaign to keep pollutants out of our streams and rivers. Volunteers are helping us get a simple message printed near storm drains and curbside grates throughout the Winooski Basin. “DUMP NO WASTE. DRAINS TO RIVER” is a constant reminder that any trash, debris, and pollutants that go into these black holes flow directly into local waterways. That’s right. The rain and snowmelt that scrub pet waste, household chemicals, leaked engine oil, trash, and winter sand from our paved streets, driveways and parking lots does not get treated at a wastewater facility.
Stormdrain stenciling campaigns are used successfully throughout the country to raise awareness about this and encourage people to take simple steps to reduce the potential pollutants that are now getting carried away. Here are a few to remember if you live near a paved street:
- Never dump anything into a storm drain. Toxic materials should be brought to your nearest hazardous waste collection for proper disposal.
- Check your vehicles, lawn mowers, and other small engines for oil leaks. Keeping the oil inside the engine is better for everyone.
- Reduce your use of household chemicals. When they are used, be sure to follow any handling and disposal directions carefully and avoid spilling or clean-up directly on an outdoor paved surface.
- Runoff from your lawn also reaches the storm drain system and river. Limit your use of herbicides and pesticides and if you do use them, make sure to check the weather forecast to make sure
- Limit your use of winter sand to that needed for safety. Sweep up excess whenever possible. You can spread it thinly on a level grassy area. The grass will help filter and distribute it before it reaches a paved surface.
The Friends of the Winooski River has coordinated several stenciling events throughout the Winooski watershed in Montpelier, Barre, and Richmond.
Here’s how it works: Volunteer teams donning safety vests use stormwater system maps to locate catch basins around a city or village. When one is located, the team preps the site using a broom and wire brush. A message stencil is laid out on the pavement and spray-painted.
Recently, we worked with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) staff and Americorps members during their volunteer Service Day in Richmond.
Spaulding High School students in Barre and volunteers in Montpelier have also helped the Friends stencil stormdrains in the past year. Through these events, the Friends are raising awareness about the issue of water pollution and the need to protect our natural resources by promoting proper waste disposal practices.
If you’re interested in coordinating a stenciling effort in your community, the Friends may be able to help. Use the form on the Contact page to connect with us for information and resources. Our stormwater page of our website has some general information on stormwater management. This stenciling guide is also a great resource.
Thank you to all of the volunteer groups that have helped us educate communities and prevent pollution from entering streams and rivers in the Winooski River watershed. We look forward to more events in the future!