Out of Sight. Out of Mind.

Ever walk by a piece of litter and tell yourself, "That’s not my trash, not my problem?" It is the same thought pattern when it comes to stormwater pollution. Only it is worse.

stenciling volunteerBecause stormwater pollution goes underground, there is a perception that the problem goes somewhere else. That stormwater doesn’t get treated. It doesn’t get filtered. It doesn’t magically get better. The pollution goes straight into our oceans, our rivers, our lakes, and our ground water.

Of course, that is someone else’s problem. We can see this train of thought in practice everyday.

  • Watching a state convention center employee saying that the hydraulic leak under a forklift as well as the goo coming from the trash collection bins are someone else’s problem while watching the pollution leak into the stormwater drain.

  • Hearing about a German printed circuit board facility dumping 2,000 gallons of cupric chloride into the storm sewer because they did not want to pay to have their toxics handled offsite. They actually had the treatment process and capacity to adequately treat this solution at their wastewater recovery facility.

  • Watching city park employees replace a rusting galvanized dock ladder with another new galvanized ladder. “We got over 50 years use out of this one.” The city spent significant resources upgrading the shoreline for a better salmon habitat just around the corner… "We are only here to replace the ladder. Stormwater pollution is another department’s problem."

  • Watching rainfall push an oil slick from leaking drums on an open parking lot and toward a catch basin while the employee is sweeping in a different area of the same parking lot.

beach cleanupThere is a growing conscience about stormwater pollution, but it needs everyone to participate. It starts with you and me.

Here is one of my easy solutions. The next time you are on a beach vacation, bring along a heavy-duty trash bag. While walking on the beach, just start picking up the plastic, metal, and glass debris. The locals you pass will wave and smile at you. Other people will collect stuff and ask if they can deposit in your bag. Give the collected trash to a beach hotel staff and watch them look at you in awe. You will be considered an honored guest of that area’s beach culture.

Read this related story about Coastal Cleanup Day in San Diego County.