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Protecting local waterways at Storm Drain Stenciling Day

internalexToday’s post comes from ILACSD’s Community Events Intern, Alex!

As a student at PLNU in the Point Loma area of San Diego, I get to experience a lot of the weather San Diego has to offer. Usually that means sunny skies or foggy mornings, but sometimes (like last week), it means sitting at my desk listening to the wind howl outside my door and the rain pelt my dorm window. Since I started interning at I Love A Clean San Diego, I’ve become more aware of the effects storms, like the one from last night, have on local waterways and ecosystems. Plus with Storm Drain Stenciling Day approaching, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of the role our storm drains play in the health of our environment and what we can do to keep our communities clean.

stormdrainMaybe you’ve seen this message stenciled by a storm drain somewhere in San Diego? If you have, it’s because a volunteer has participated in the Storm Drain Stenciling Program ILACSD sponsors along with Think Blue, the City of San Diego Storm Water Department! The simplicity of the Storm Drain Stenciling Program is one of my favorite traits. Volunteers check out stenciling kits and use the paint and stencils to write the message on any surface that is linked to a storm drain inlet. So great and so easy!

You might be asking yourself why a storm drains need to be stenciled, anyway. After all, they just link up to the sewage system, right? While this was my own misconception, the truth is sewage and storm drain systems are different. Our sewage system takes all the wastewater from our toilets, showers, and sinks to a treatment facility where the water goes through a three-step process of filtration and treatment before getting released into a natural water source. Storm drains, on the other hand, get no such treatment. Since a storm drain’s job is to literally drain storm water that accumulates on streets when it rains, filtration takes a back seat to avoid street flooding. So when it rains, any and all chemicals, oil, disposable cups, food wrappers, gum, or other trash we leave on the curb get washed down the storm drain system and eventually into our ocean. This is not only bad for wildlife that lives in and depends on the ocean, it poses a threat to human health as well.

When we think of cleanups, it’s really easy to picture beaches and to forget about inland areas. However, a lot of the pollution we see on our beaches has been washed downstream from an inland waterway or canyon. This year’s Storm Drain Stenciling Day around Caramel Creek Neighborhood Park aims to paint and stencil 118 drains that will help inform and remind the community about where their trash is headed. By preventing dumping in inland areas, we can diminish the amount of pollution that reaches our beaches and the ocean.