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Neighborhoods can win free art in new storm drain project

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A new civic campaign seeks help from residents to mark local storm drains while sprucing up area neighborhoods.

A partnership between Richland County Stormwater Management and Columbia Water will give neighborhoods the chance to have a storm drain painted by a local artist. The project is part of the county’s annual Drains Aren’t Dumps campaign, which aims to reduce pollution in local waterways by highlighting the harmful effects pet waste, lawn clippings and lawn chemicals can have when they enter storm drains.

Storm drain markers, weatherproof medallions with an image of a fish and water along with the words “No Dumping/Drains to River,” serve as visual reminders that storm drains lead directly to local creeks, streams, lakes and rivers, the county said. Water flowing through storm drains is not treated or cleaned.

“During this year’s campaign, instead of us selecting which drains will be painted, we’re giving more neighborhoods an opportunity to get involved,” Chenille Williams, the county’s education program coordinator for stormwater management, said in a news release.

Three entrants from Richland County or the city of Columbia will be randomly selected in October to have drains painted by Jessica Dame.

To get started marking neighborhood drains, residents can follow sign-up steps at www.drainsarentdumps.org. Registered groups will receive training and materials needed to mark drains including safety vests, gloves, a wire brush, caulking gin and adhesive.

At least 100 neighborhoods in Richland County and the city of Columbia have drains that can be marked, according to the release. Williams recommended having at least two people mark a storm drain.

“I’ve worked with students in elementary schools to mark drains on their schools’ campuses,” Williams said. “Up until 2020, we got a great response from citizens interested in marking drains. We’re trying to bring the program back and pick up that participation again.”

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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