A storm drain with the stenciled message, It’s the time of year we love to watch the leaves change color, and the time of year we work hard to keep fallen leaves from clogging our storm drains. This month, we’re taking a look at storm drains as critical features of our local water system, the way leaves and other debris play a role in water pollution, and how we can do our part to steward storm drains.

At the simplest level, leaf litter in storm drains blocks the flow of water. This means enough leaf litter can cause roads to flood. Leaves can also cause blockages inside a drain and harm our local pipes. However, there’s more to the story.

Unlike the drains inside our homes that flow to a sewer treatment plant, the storm drains in our neighborhoods lead straight into our waterways without any treatment. This means anything but pure rainwater is a potential contaminant negatively impacting our area’s water quality. Stormwater runoff can carry excess fertilizer, sediment, trash, and E. coli from pet poo, and all those things can hitch a ride on fallen leaves.

What are the consequences to some of these? Excess fertilizer from yard waste can cause nutrient pollution and oxygen depletion in our streams and rivers. Excess sediment can build up in waterways, causing our rivers to appear brown and making the river bottom too muddy for fish to lay their eggs. Meanwhile, E. coli can make water unsafe for swimming.

Fortunately, there are simple steps anyone can do to help! You can take a pledge to adopt a storm drain this autumn, keeping it clear of autumn leaves, trash, and other debris. Toledo Lake Erie Clear Choices Clean Water has great tips for how to take care of your local storm drains.

Storm drain marking is an easy process to notify our neighbors that what goes into the storm drains comes out in our waterways untreated. So far in 2022, 39 PCS volunteers have marked 424 storm drains and distributed over 800 educational door tags, and we have more storm drain marking planned for this autumn.

Once winter hits, our storm drain marking program will go into hibernation until spring, when the weather permits us to be able to either stencil a painted message or glue a medallion to our storm drains. If you’re interested in trying storm drain marking, you can let us know by filling out our form.