Stormwater enters Lake Superior without treatment at the wastewater treatment plant.
So protecting local waterways means keeping pollution, the biggest source of surface water pollution according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, means keeping stormwater systems clean.
The city’s Environmental Services Division has a program that can help citizens contribute to the solution. Learn more about the city’s Storm Drain Adoption Program during at event at 9 a.m. Friday, June 7, in the atrium of the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St., Superior.
After a brief discussion about the program, participants will get a chance to view the cleanup kit offered to storm drain adopters.
“The kits were designed to make the job a little easier and a little safer,” said Andrea Crouse, water resources program coordinator for the Environmental Services Division.
The kits consist of a bucket for collecting garbage and debris, a dustpan and handheld broom for sweeping up sediment, disposable gloves, canvas or leather work gloves, a high-visibility T-shirt to keep people visible and a map showing where their adopted drain is located.
inspection sheets are included so city officials can gather information about the types of garbage or debris that is cleared so the city can target pollution prevention efforts, Crouse said.
“If we find that there is a lot of grass clippings, leaves and debris, we know that is a message we have to work on,” Crouse said. “If we find a lot of cigarette butts or plastic bottles, or whatever it might be, this is one way to get that information and address those issues more directly.”
Under the program, volunteers are asked to clean their drains every week or two, or before a rain event. If debris is cleaned up before a rain event, that’s less stuff that ends up in our lakes and streams, Crouse said.
Volunteers in the program range in age from children working with their families to seniors, she said.
“We try to be flexible,” Crouse said. “They’re great ambassadors for the program just by being out and doing this. A lot of those people end up talking to their neighbors about why they’re doing this and it helps educate people about the way the stormwater infrastructure works, so people learn it’s not getting cleaned when it goes down the drain.”
The program has been active in the community for more than a decade, but has been revived in recent years.
Storm drain adopters can help prevent flooding in their own neighborhood, Crouse said.
Natural debris (sticks and leaves) can really cause a lot of trouble because a branch or twigs over a drain can start catching other stuff over the top of that,” she said. “So you can get build up when you get natural debris in the gutter. Another thing that we see that causes a fair amount of plugging is plastic bags; they get wrapped around the storm drains. And it’s pretty common to find plastic bottles, aluminum cans and other things.”
The event gives people the opportunity to learn more about the program — no commitment required — as well as meet other people who are involved in the program, Crouse said.
“The curb, gutter or ditch running past your home or office is essentially shoreline property,” Crouse said. “These stormwater conveyances keep our roads clear of rain and snowmelt, and move water away from buildings and infrastructure, but they also create a direct link to the nearest stream and, around here, Lake Superior. Anything that is in the gutter or ditch is likely going to end up in the water.”
For more information, go to www.ci.superior.wi.us.