Only Rain in the Drain: Volunteers Help Communicate Essential Information to Residents
Have you ever noticed fellow Orange County residents on the side of the road near a storm drain inlet? Most likely they were volunteering to label the inlets with blue metal medallions bearing the phrase “No Dumping—Only Rain in the Drain.”
Storm drain labeling is a popular volunteer activity hosted by Orange County Government’s Environmental Protection Division. Volunteers are part of the Division’s Environmental Volunteer and Internship Program, or eVIP. The program is a great way for students to get involved to prevent stormwater pollution while gaining valuable community service or internship experience.
As part of one volunteer’s experience, University of Central Florida student Christopher Ge said, “What really struck me was the people we encountered while doing the work. They were curious about our presence in their neighborhood as well as receptive when we told them of our job and mission. It made me realize people cared about what we were doing and the quality of their neighborhood.”
Many volunteers become interested in storm drain labeling out of a general concern for the environment. Some are surprised to learn that stormwater pollution is a much bigger problem than they imagined. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater pollution, also called nonpoint source pollution, is the “leading remaining cause of water quality problems” in some states. When it rains, runoff picks up pollutants like excess nitrogen in fertilizer, insecticides, oil, chemicals, sediment from construction sites, pet waste and trash, and carries them into our stormwater sewer system at storm drain inlets.
Another student volunteer, Cole Mohanna, took storm drain labeling an extra step by producing a film to assist in virtually training volunteers how to label inlets. Cole is a 17-year-old senior at Winter Park High School. He labeled 106 inlets.
Every year up to 400 volunteers place as many as 2,100 medallion on storm drain inlets in Orange County. Each one serves as a reminder to neighbors that by keeping pollutants out of storm drains, they are doing their part to keep rivers, lakes and springs clean.
Photo caption: Orange County Government Environmental Protection Division volunteer, Cole Mohanna, installs new storm drain label in local neighborhood.