Storm Drains Carry Messages

03/18/97 by Halley Brantley

From the March 18, 1997, issue of the Salisbury Post

Armed with stencils and fast-drying paint, Catawba College students volunteered Saturday to paint messages on storm drains on Innes Street and Statesville Boulevard.
“Keep Clean,” the message reads. “Flows to Yadkin-Pee Dee River.”
Dr. John Wear, director of Catawba’s environmental science program, said some people pour herbicides, excess fertilizer or even motor oil into the drains. They justify their actions, thinking the drains empty into a treatment facility that will treat the polluting materials.
“In truth, material that goes into our storm drains simply ends up in our streams,” says Wear. “It can have a pretty devastating effect on our water systems.”
A statewide effort is being mounted to stencil storm drains across North Carolina, but students in the NatureSafe club on the Catawba campus didn’t want to wait for the larger effort.
Nicole DiDomenico, club president, sees the endeavor as an educational project as well as an environmental effort. “We’ll be handing out fliers that go into more depth about what we’re doing if anyone has any questions,” she says.
They plan initially to paint about 100 of the city’s 1,000 storm drains.
“We’re hoping other volunteer groups may get involved also,” Wear says, “because it’s going to take a lot of folks to paint the drains and maintain them over time.”
The city of Salisbury provided the paint for the project and cleaned the grates before they were painted.
Vernon Sherrill, Salisbury public services director, says the city wants to educate the community. “I feel like it’s an opportunity to join hands with the college as we have in so many other endeavors over the years” to educate simply by posting signs, he said. “That’s really what stenciling is. It’s a sign that says, ‘Beware of what you’re doing!’"
Wear notes that Saturday’s project is just a start. “You plant the seed,” he says. “Then you hope other organizations get involved as well.”

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