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Local grade school stencils storm drains for water quality

On a beautiful morning last May, conservation technicians at the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) joined students at La ola del lago at Grainwood Spanish Emersion school for a day of storm water education.

Fifth graders donned their safety vests, stencils,

and spray paint and got to work marking off all the storm drains near their school with messages prompting nearby homeowners to “Dump no waste!” into the drains.

Throughout the day, students were able to stencil a whopping 24 storm drain stencils. “The students learned so much from the experience of stenciling the storm drains,” Jennifer Maloney, gifted and talented specialist at La old del lago, comments, “and they continued to brainstorm ways in which they could help prevent pollution in the waterways of our community.”

What are storm drains?

Storm drains come in many shapes and sizes, but their function is all the same: collect rainwater and direct it to nearby waterbodies. They keep rainwater and snowmelt from flooding roads and other impervious surfaces, reducing safety hazards and maintenance concerns for roads. But when something other than rain or snow falls down the drain, problems arise.

Rainwater is the only thing that storm drains are designed to collect. Any other item such as leaves, trash, grass clippings, engine oil, are considered a contaminant to the function that storm drains are meant to provide. Anything that falls into a storm drain flows directly into nearby waterbodies or storm water collection ponds. Water and other fallen materials do not go to any wastewater treatment center throughout the process. While storm water

ponds do an excellent job reducing flooding concerns, any contaminants that flow into them can harm the pond’s water quality.

It is easy to remember what can go into storm drains: water. It is equally easy to remember the things that cannot go into storm drains: anything else.

Yard waste, grass clippings, fertilizers, and pesticides that are not removed before washing down a storm drain cause excess nutrients to seep into the water as those materials decompose. Similar nutrient imbalances happen when chemicals are dumped into storm drains. Things like house paint, herbicides, soaps, and oils set off chain reactions downstream that disrupt fish and aquatic plants when storm water from the drain enters nearby lakes and rivers.

How to properly dispose of household chemicals

Common household waste products can generally be taken to the household hazardous waste facility in Jordan, MN off CR 282. Other common contaminants can be disposed of in various ways:

  • Used engine oil can be brought to a licensed local business, usually an auto shop.

  • Grass clippings and yard waste can be bagged for curbside pickup, taken to a drop off site, or composted at home.

  • Chlorinated water can be cleansed before you drain. Keep pools or hot tubs uncovered for 48 hours to allow the chlorine in the water to break down naturally. If possible, drain pool water into your lawn to allow some of the water to soak into the ground.

What can you do to promote proper storm drain maintenance?

The storm drain stenciling done by La ola del lago students serves as a reminder of the steps we can take to prevent pollution from entering our local lakes, rivers, and streams. It all starts with storm drains.

If you want to try your hand at stenciling your neighborhood storm drains like the students at La ola del lago did, you can rent out the Scott SWCD’s storm drain stenciling kit! The kit can be checked out for FREE by anyone looking to stencil proper storm drain messages within Scott County borders. Scott SWCD technicians are also available to provide educational lessons to groups on the importance of keeping our storm drains clean.

Call us office at 952-492-5425 or email us at to inquire about kit rental.

You can also adopt your local storm drains. At you can pledge to maintain and clean the storm drain(s) around your house. It is easy and free to sign up!

If you see illegal dumping or waste coming out of a storm water pipe that is cloudy, colored, or has an oil sheen, report it to the county.


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