Nothing fishy about these placards
You may have noticed the bright blue and green placards with a picture of a fish reading
“No Dumping! Drains to River” appearing on storm drains around the U of M. Physical
Plant & Planning has placed more than 500 of the signs next to the drains to alert
people that nothing should be dumped into them. Student worker Jason Kirby placed
the placards and now is working to install more on the Park Avenue Campus.
The project was spurred by a mandate from the Tennessee Department of Environment
and Conservation to ensure that water leaving storm drains on campus is as clean or
cleaner than when it entered.
“We have to make sure that no soil or sediment from construction areas gets in the
drains,” says John Farrell, manager of landscape and pest control services. The biggest
problem, though, says Farrell, is trash thrown on the ground. “We spend an average
of 50 hours a day picking up trash. Our first two hours are spent picking up cigarette
butts and trash. These are hours we could spend performing landscape tasks. All of
the pollutants that enter our storm drains end up in the ditches, creeks and eventually
the Mississippi River.”
Kirby is taking a campus map around with him and marking everywhere he finds a storm
“Once we identify all the drains, we will assign a number to each one and a numbered
placard will be installed,” says Farrell. “This number will be incorporated into the
new mapping system and will help us to identify specific drains when issues arise.
Our goal is to have a notification system for the public to report any illicit discharges
in the storm drains so we can investigate and remedy any problems discovered. Individuals
will be able to go to a web link that will soon be created and fill out a short form
that will identify the drain by number and give us a brief description of the problem.”
Even if you’re not directly dumping anything into a storm drain, pollution can occur.
Rainwater washes soil, street litter, oil, leaves, grass clippings, pet wastes and
fertilizers into storm drains. Material flowing into storm drains does not get treated
before emptying into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. This untreated material can
pollute the waterways in the community. Although individual storm drains may contribute
small amounts of pollutants, the combination of many storm drains can cause a negative
impact on water quality.