Martinsville City Mayor Kathy Lawson presided over the dedication of the permanent storm sewer markers in downtown Martinsville, placing the first marker in front of the Martinsville Fire Department on Thursday.
“Storm drain marking is a tangible way to actively engage and motivate citizens to learn more about the connection between stormwater and the quality of our rivers,” said Dennis Reeves of the Rotary Clubs of Martinsville and County. of Henry. “We hope this dedication of permanent markers will not only make people think twice about litter, but also improve the health of our incredible Smith River.”
This project, along with multiple storm sewer murals and the marking of other storm sewers with a stencil that reads “Do not litter, drain in the river”, was funded by the Martinsville Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Martinsville and the Henry County Rotary Club partnered with the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) to help people understand how storm sewers work.
“The Rotary Club Uptown of Martinsville, Rotary Club of Martinsville and Henry County Club, we all got together, we got district matching grants for a few projects with DRBA last year and it was great to see children paint the storm. drains in a few different places here,” Joe Keiper said. “To get this message across that we’re responsible for our own backyards, we’re not going to throw down the storm drains, we’re not going to throw away our oil…and that’s timely because one of the new tenants of Rotary International is the protection of our environment.
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The stencils were painted by a collaboration between Rotary club members and the Boys & Girls Club of Blue Ridge. The storm sewer paintings are the result of an art contest sponsored by the Rotating Clubs in which the winners painted their sewer art. They can be seen around town, one near the Farmers Market, one behind the Virginia Museum of Natural History, and the last on the Uptown Connection Spur Trail.
“A lot of people don’t realize it, but storm sewer pollution is actually the number one pollution in Virginia,” said Brian Williams, program manager at the DRBA. “You don’t think about it, and that’s the whole reason for this campaign…To raise awareness of what’s going on in the storm drains ends up in the Smith River.”
“All that stormwater is going somewhere,” he added. “The real problem, of course, is that it picks up everything on the road, gas and oil, garbage…Rainwater picks it up and it goes straight into the storm drains.”
“What we’re trying to do with this program is educate kids, children and students, and adults, because they just don’t know it,” Williams said. “A lot of people think it’s filtered water, it’s not filtered water, it goes through a series of pipes and goes straight into the river.”
“It works really well for cities and urban areas because you don’t want the roads to be flooded,” Williams said. “We have to take the waste somewhere, it’s just a problem to throw this waste away, you see it in the gutters.”
“We are grateful to the Rotating Clubs and Boys & Girls Club students who painted many drains in the Uptown,” Lawson said. “These drains, while bringing the beauty of works of art to downtown, will be a lasting reminder for all of us to be responsible for protecting our water resources.”
“This project will leave a lasting legacy to inspire clean water and environmental protection in Uptown,” Lawson said. “Storm drains work by diverting rainwater and melting snow into nearby bodies of water. Every time it rains, water runs off the rooftops and spills onto the street, unfortunately bringing with it oil, trash, debris and toxins. This water then flows into storm sewers and then through a system of pipes directly into waterways such as streams and rivers. It is important that nothing but water enters a storm drain.
Monique Holland is a reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at [email protected] or 276-734-9603.