We’ve all seen a storm drain covered in dry leaves and many have experienced the flooding that can result from this build-up, but keeping these drains clear and free of debris does more than just reduce flooding. Stormwater contains a number of additional pollutants like copper from brake pads, zinc from tires, and nickel and chromium from engine wear. Cancer-causing compounds like poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from exhaust and 6PPD-quinone, a tire preservative shown to be lethal to Coho salmon in urban streams, are also present. Even when it rains a small amount, the storm drain acts as a channel for trash and organic pollutants to flow into the nearest creek, lake, Duwamish River and Puget Sound.
SPU and SDOT work together through the City’s Clean Street Partnership to regularly sweep over 90% of Seattle’s arterial streets, however, this partnership does not focus on neighborhood streets. Neighborhood streets are usually smaller and have cars parked on either side, so they are difficult to regularly sweep. This is where the Adopt a Drain program comes in. This program asks residents to adopt a storm drain in their neighborhood and commit to keeping it clear of trash, leaves, and other debris to prevent water pollution year-round. In the drier months, this means regular sweeping up around these storm drains.
The Adopt a Drain program was launched in October 2021, and there are ten cities so far, including Seattle. Overall, there are 620 volunteers who have adopted 1,129 drains and collected 4,039lbs of debris. Seattle accounts for 204 of those volunteers, but with 21,000 drains in the City of Seattle, there are still many more that need to be adopted.
The good news is adopting a drain is incredibly easy! Start with a visit to Adopt-a-Drain – Washington. Here you can use your address to see which of your local drains are not adopted. If you find an adoptable drain in your neighborhood, you can create an account with your name and address to claim your storm drain. Once claimed, you can give your drain a name like ‘Drainy McDrainerson’, and Adopt-A-Drain will send you tips on how to clean up safely. The welcome packet also includes a sign that is tailored to the waterway near you to let others know about the program and serve as a reminder to you that you are helping to improve that waterway. If you live in the City of Seattle, SPU provides free tools and supplies to help you do your work, such as a safety vest, a 5-gallon bucket, clean-up claws, and gloves.
Adopting a storm drain is an easy way to help preserve our beautiful water bodies so please consider making a small investment of time and signing up today!