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Earth Friendly: It's more than just water down the drain

By By Marie Lester
July 26, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.


Here a drain, there a drain, everywhere a storm drain.

Jim Cantrell, the environmental compliance manager for the Public Works Department with the city of Victoria, explains that storm drains are all over the place, and we might not even notice them. They can be anything that conveys storm water runoff. That includes streets, ditches, out falls, gutters or even the inlet on the corner of the block.

All these drains are interconnected, conveying storm water through a series of pipes all throughout the city. These pipes range in size from 12-24 inches, to 36-48 inches, to large enough to drive a car through like the outfall by the Victoria Mall. Every area in the city has some method of a storm water runoff that does not interact with the waste water system.

Why is this information important you ask? Most of our daily actions have an impact on these storm drain systems that, in turn, impact our creeks, rivers, bays and estuaries. Cantrell pointed out that "several of our outfalls discharge into the Guadalupe River."

Unlike wastewater from sinks, toilet and the washing machines, water that is discharged from a storm drain does not go through any treatment process or filter before it enters into the river. That means anything picked up along the way by draining storm water is also deposited into the creeks and rivers.

Material swept away by draining storm water has its own term - illicit discharge. Illicit discharges are pollutants that come in many forms - solids, liquids, organic matter or synthetic materials. Common examples of illicit discharge are pet waste, yard waste, grass clippings, trash from residential or commercial sites, or soap running off your neighbor's now sparkly car.

The more illicit discharge that makes its way into the river, Cantrell said, the harder it is to disinfect to make potable water, or drinking water. For this reason, he stresses citizens should never throw or pour anything into a storm drain.

One individual who has first-hand experience with storm drains is the Dian Denker Patterson, executive director of Keep Victoria Beautiful. She states that there are some pretty interesting things that get washed through a storm drain ranging from plastic bags, fast food packaging, candy wrappers, cigarette butts and even the occasional shopping cart.

To remedy this, she plans on working closely with surrounding store owners this fall to perform an initial clean sweep of the outfall that begins at the intersection of Northgate Road and the Hallettsville Highway, and ends at the intersection of Navarro Street and Zac Lentz Parkway.

Both Cantrell and Patterson offer some tips in ways you can get involved to keep illicit discharge from entering storm drains:

Use pesticides and fertilizers sparingly.

Repair auto leaks.

Properly dispose of household hazardous waste, used auto fluids and batteries.

Clean up pet waste and dispose of it in the garbage.

Wash your car at a commercial carwash or on your lawn or any other unpaved surface.

Carry travel-sized trash bags in your car to prevent litter from escaping.

Capture your yard clippings from the curbs to keep it from clogging storm drains.

For more information on Victoria's storm drains and water systems, visit victoriatx.org and follow the channel 15 link to view a video explaining the differences between our water systems titled "Drinking Water, Waste Water and Storm Water with Jim Cantrell." You can also find ways to help Keep Victoria Beautiful by contacting Patterson at ed@keepvictoriabeautiful.com or calling 361-571-0582.

Let's all work together this summer to keep the water we play in clean and clear.

Marie Lester, is the Environmental Programs Coordinator for the City of Victoria's Environmental Services Department. You may contact her with topic ideas, inspiration, questions and comments at cmlester@victoriatx.org.

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