URI students are part of the pollution solution

Marking storm drains in South Kingstown to discourage dumping

KINGSTON, R.I. – September 25, 2009 – University of Rhode Island students are partnering with the Town of South Kingstown, Save the Bay and the Rhode Island chapter of the Surfrider Foundation to protect the Saugatucket River and Point Judith Pond as part of a community service program through a URI 101 class and the Feinstein Enriching America Program.

On Saturday, Sept. 26 from 9:30 AM to 1 PM, they will be marking storm drains throughout Wakefield with blue and green “Don’t Dump, Drains to Coast” labels to remind people not to dump pollutants or other materials into or near storm drains. Last year URI 101 students marked drains around the URI Kingston and Narragansett Bay campuses, downtown Westerly, and Narragansett neighborhoods also with support from Save the Bay, Surfrider, municipalities, and the Narrow River Preservation Association.

A recent survey found that many Rhode Islanders think that water entering storm drains leads to a water treatment plant. “Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case,” said Vanessa Venturini, the storm drain marking coordinator at URI Cooperative Extension. “People are surprised to learn that most storm drains connect directly to our local rivers, lakes, ponds and eventually Narragansett Bay.”

When it rains, water collects remnants of our everyday activities such as litter, motor oil, bacteria from pet waste, excess fertilizers and pesticides, and leaves and grass clippings. This polluted stormwater runs off hard surfaces to storm drains and then directly to local waters. Pollutants in stormwater close beaches and fishing grounds, threaten water resources, harm natural areas, and contribute to flooding.

According to Venturini, people unknowingly contribute to water pollution every day. “A simple act, such as washing your car in the driveway, fertilizing the lawn, or walking your dog could substantially damage water quality,” she said.

Among the steps Venturini says can help prevent stormwater pollution are:

– Never dump, wash, or rake anything into the path of a storm drain.

– Sweep spilled fertilizers and grass clippings off sidewalks and driveways and back onto the lawn.

– Divert rooftop runoff to a rain barrel or onto the lawn rather than a driveway. Collected water can even be used for watering plants.

– Reduce the amount of fertilizers and pesticides that you apply to your lawn. It will save money, too!

– Never put hazardous household wastes down storm drains, indoor drains, or the trash. Call the Eco Depot to dispose of these wastes (401-942-1430 x 241).

– If you have a septic system, have it inspected every year, and have it pumped at least every three to five years.

– Wash your vehicle at a designated car wash or on grass—not in the driveway.

– Scoop your dog’s poop. Then throw it in the trash.

The storm drain marking project is a partnership between the Rhode Island Stormwater Solutions campaign, sponsored by the Rhode Island Departments of Transportation and Environmental Management and URI, Save The Bay, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Town of South Kingstown.

For more information on how to reduce water pollution visit www.RIStormwaterSolutions.org. If your community group would be interested in learning more on this and other important environmental issues, contact Vanessa Venturini at VVenturini@mail.uri.edu to book a trained Master Gardener to give a presentation of “Improving the Environment from your Back Yard.” The presentation is aimed at sharing practical tips that everyone can do at home that collectively will improve the health of local water bodies and the environment. These simple practices include strategies for dealing with stormwater run-off, composting, use of fertilizers/pesticides, and more. Any school groups interested in learning about water conservation may also contact Vanessa to borrow the EnviroScape® Watershed Model, a visual tool representing pollution sources in a watershed.