Chittenden County program lets you adopt a storm drain

Through the Adopt-A-Drain program, you can officially make one local storm drain yours.
Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 8:54 AM EDT
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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - If you’ve ever wanted to have your own storm drain, now is your chance. Through the Adopt-A-Drain program, you can officially make one local storm drain yours.

“So we are trying to keep organic material, as well as your more typical litter, out of the storm drains,” said Remy Crettol, the project manager at Rethink Runoff.

Rethink Runoff has partnered with Hamline University in Minnesota to create Adopt-A-Drain.

“Create a program to get residents to sign on and clean up storm drains in their neighborhood,” said Crettol.

Crettol has brought it to five Chittenden County towns with hopes for more.

Residents can sign up, name their drain, and they will be greeted with a welcome packet explaining the value in storm drain clearing, a lawn sign showing support, and safety tips.

In Chittenden County, many storm drains lead directly to the lake. So clearing a drain can do more than just make the neighborhood look better.

“The organic matter adds phosphorus in the lake which can lead to algae in the water,” said Crettol.

Organic matter can also trap other pollutants like motor oil or salt.

Crettol says more than 50 drains have been adopted in Chittenden County, and they have collected more than 80 pounds of debris.

“I think it’s important for all communities to consider programs like Adopt-A-Drain,” said Crettol.

Experts say even land-locked municipalities need to be thinking about healthy drains.

“Every community has local water bodies that are going to be impacted by what we are putting on the land and what is getting into the water,” said UVM Extension Associate Professor Kris Stepenuck.

Stepenuck says keeping drains clear can reduce flood risk locally, but even drains far away from Lake Champlain could flow to it.

Lake Champlain has a phosphorus challenge so keeping as much out as possible is critical to lake health. One effective way to make that happen is through education and outreach.

“This is the kind of thing where people can say, ‘Hey the leaves are here, we have to get the leaves out. We don’t want that leaching phosphorus into the lake or the sediment,’” said Stepenuck.

Stepenuck says while educational programs like this are very valuable, anyone can adopt a drain anywhere.

“It’s a great opportunity for local stewardship,” said Stepenuck.

Crettol says this program isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

“I think as long as there is community interest, the program will continue,” said Crettol.

There’s also another program that’s keeping water from even making it to the storm drain.

“Right here in Burlington, there is a residential stormwater program that residents of Burlington can sign up for to have somebody come to their property and assess how they can do a better job with soaking stormwater into the ground rather than letting it go off into the storm drain,” said Stepenuck.

Click here for more information on the Burlington program.

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