If you live in the Greater Cleveland area, are mildly active on social media, and have even a slight interest in nature or the outdoors, you probably have already seen the jolting image of what looks like bright blue paint cascading down a shale cliff and into the Rocky River. If you haven't seen this story, click here. The title says it is paint, when it fact is was liquid pool liner.
The online environmental community was rightfully outraged. This stark example illustrates both what went wrong - someone thought it was a good idea to dump liquid pool liner down the storm drain - and what went right - someone saw the issue and reported it right away to the local police and Ohio EPA. This quick action made tracking down the culprit much easier.
But I am left wondering - what about all the times something gets dumped, but it's not a bright color so it doesn't get noticed? Or the times someone sees a neighbor dump an unknown liquid down a storm drain, or even grass clippings into the creek, but doesn't say anything?
Sometimes those of us who work on water quality issues can get complacent about these types of activities because they aren't usually so obvious, and we think that no one would do something like this anymore. But then an event like this happens, with the banks of the river stained bright blue, or like the 2012 Earth Day fish kill on the Rocky River's East Branch, which was the result of cyanide being dumped in the river, and we are jolted back to the reality that a lot of education is still needed.
Watershed Manager thoughts following an incident like this:
1. Only rain down the drain. Don't dump anything in the storm drain. Ever. If you don't know how to dispose of something, contact the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District (cuyahogarecycles.org) or your community service department - most of our communites have solid waste drop off locations and/or days.
2. If you see someone dumping in a storm drain, roadside ditch, or creek, or evidence that dumping has occurred, call the local police or fire department, and Ohio EPA's 24-hour Spill/Emergency Line at 800-282-9378. Save the numbers in your phone so you don't have to try to look them up.
3. When lawn care chemicals run off during a rain storm, they also go down the drain and into the river. It's not direct dumping, but it's still hurting our creeks, rivers and Lake Erie.
4. Spread the word to your friends and neighbors. You can use our illegal dumping brochure.
5. If you have any good ideas about how to more effectively get the message out about this, let me know! You can either comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog Author: Jared Bartley, Rocky River Watershed Program Manager