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Manlius: Town engineer talks stormwater with students

Stormwater runoff and unprotected waterways can pose lots of environmental problems if not handled properly.

Manlius Town Engineer Doug Miller took time last week to educate Fayetteville-Manlius Chemistry students with an in-class presentation that could have an impact on the future.

"Sometimes you can't tell what sparks somebody right at the moment," said Chemistry teacher Mary Ward about the discussion between Miller and her students. "We might not see an immediate effect, but we might see a long-term effect on improvement of the environment."

Stormwater and pollution issues were among the main topics taught in class, and Miller touched on things kids can do in their own neighborhood to avoid illicit discharge into drains, such as oil, grease and gasoline.

"Don't dump paint down drains," he said. "[And] apply pesticides and fertilizers to your lawns accordingly."

Miller's visit was part of the educational component of the MS4, or Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, in which the town of Manlius participates.

"Part of it is public outreach, public education," said Miller, which is why Ward's curriculum and the town's mission are so compatible.

Storm drain stenciling

In 2006, Ward and her students participated in a service-learning project, in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension (it no longer offers the program) and the village of Manlius, involving storm drain stenciling.

Storm drains were created to drain excess water from roadways that could otherwise cause flooding. When water enters the drains, it essentially goes directly to a nearby water body and not to a water treatment facility.

Anything other than rainwater is considered a source of water pollutant, including motor oil, cleaning detergents, grass clippings, and cigarette butts.

Students stenciled 46 storm drains with the words "DUMP NO WASTE -- DRAINS TO STREAM" in the Academy Hill neighborhood to raise public awareness about the connection between neighborhood storm drains and local waterways.

According to Ward, statistics have shown that people who have seen a stenciled drain are more likely to change behaviors that negatively impact water quality.

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