ST. PETE BEACH — This city hopes there are many residents willing to go with the flow and volunteer to adopt and clean a storm drain in their neighborhood as part of a new county-inspired program.

Commissioners hope the program will have a trickle-down effect that inspires environmentally concerned volunteers to care for many of the 1,000 storm drains in the city.

 “Pinellas County has come up with a program called Adopt-A-Drain. What that means is a resident would adopt and be responsible for a storm drain somewhere in the city,” Commissioner Mark Grill told fellow commissioners during a June 28 meeting. “It’s really meant to improve or ensure that waste and debris and whatnot doesn’t go down into the bay and pollute the bay.”

As part of the program, resident volunteers will also be asked to clear debris after a storm so it doesn’t clog storm drains.

The University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension is partnering with Pinellas County to offer the program. The county program is open to residents in unincorporated areas, as well as cities that do not adopt their own municipal Adopt-A-Drain plan of action.

In addition, “residents of this program will also help by reporting illicit discharges or putting anything other than water down the drain, and ultimately helping to improve water quality,” the county’s Division of Environmental Management noted.  

Pinellas County code prohibits the dumping of any waste, including chemicals, oil, sewage, trash and yard waste, into the street, storm sewer system or into any water body in the county. To report pollution, call the Environmental Management hotline at 727-464-4425.

City Manager Alex Rey said after speaking with staff, “We really feel we can launch this without putting too much work into it.” 

The program can have two benefits, he said: One is to reduce pollution into the bay, and another is to have the water drain faster. 

“If you get a heavy storm, that comes after three weeks of no rain, there is going to be a lot of debris and trash that is going to go towards the storm drain,” he said.

Materials will have to be provided to volunteers — cones, safety vests, and bags, Rey told commissioners. 

The city would ask permission to trim down the county’s 35-minute training video to five or seven minutes. “I don’t think we have to torture the volunteers for 35 minutes to explain how stormwater systems work,” Rey said.

The city manager suggested the city enlist “a couple of people per drain; it’s always good to have second person. That way somebody is looking out for the traffic, while another person is leaning down into the drain. We’ll see how many volunteers we get.”

Once it gets off the ground, the program will be reviewed in a year, he told commissioners. “We have a similar program with people cleaning up the beach and it works great; people feel good about it,” Rey said. “The more we can engage people to be part of the solution, as opposed to making 20 phone calls to us that ‘My drain needs cleaning,’ (the better). They can say, ‘I’m volunteering and taking it on my own hands to help the city.’

Commissioners said they think it’s a great idea.

Commissioner Melinda Pletcher said it’s “a great way to give back to your community.”

Commissioner Chris Graus noted he has already cared for and cleaned a storm drain in his front yard for twenty years. Rey responded, “Now we are going to give you credit for that.”

The city manager said staff will initiate plans to roll out a city Adopt-A-Drain Program in the near future.



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