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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Drain markers seek to minimize stormwater pollution

Division of Environmental Quality Non Point Source Pollution Program manager Fran Castro and education and outreach coordinator Jihan Buniag apply adhesive on the storm drain marker that will be placed on the storm drain in front of Victoria Hotel across the American Memorial Park in Garapan yesterday morning. Inset, the blue-colored storm drain marker features Primo, the yellow crowned butterfly fish that is endemic to the CNMI. (Clarissa V. David/Contributed Photo) Staff of the Division of Environmental Quality, Coastal Resources Management, and Department of Public Works took part in the first ever storm drain marking activity in Garapan to increase public awareness about stormwater pollution and strengthen the agencies’ efforts to minimize its negative impact on Saipan’s coral reefs.

Equipped with maps, gloves, resin markers, curb marker adhesives, and steel wire brushes, 16 employees went out in twos and threes yesterday morning to mark storm drains along streets near the American Memorial Park.

Of the over 100 existing storm drains that have been identified in Garapan, some 23 were marked with blue labels that contains the message “Do Not Dump: Drains to Coral Reefs.”
The labels, designed and created by Florida-based Das Manufacturing, Inc., also feature Primo, the yellow crowned butterfly fish that is endemic to the CNMI.

Lisa Eller, DEQ Coral Reef Initiative/Nonpoint Source Pollution Branch federal programs coordinator for outreach and publications, said the special adhesive applied to the storm drain markers can withstand weather conditions on the island so it won’t be easily removed.

Eller said DEQ is spearheading the project and has partnered with DPW, which has been tasked to clear storm drains of debris in the next few months, and with CRM, which is assigned to recruit volunteers and conduct education and outreach.

“We wanted to get together as staff to mark the drains but eventually, the intent is to bring in community volunteers,” said Eller in an interview after the activity.

Eller said the purpose of the storm drain marking project is to educate the public about storm drains “and the fact that everything that goes into storm drains goes untreated into the ocean.”

“Pollutants that are going into the storm drains are contributing to the impaired water quality of our oceans,” Eller told Saipan Tribune. “If there are sediments coming down, they smother the coral reefs. If there’s chemical pollutants, they all have their different negative effects but generally, all the pollutants that go down are harming the coral reefs in different ways.”

Eller said that Garapan—the island’s business and tourist hub—houses a lot of concrete buildings and business establishments that become sources of pollutants to the nearby ocean area, the Micro Beach, thereby contributing to the “impaired” quality of its water based on their laboratory tests.

“We want to reduce the amount of pollution load into these beaches here,” she added.

DEQ education and outreach coordinator Jihan Buniag, who participated in yesterday’s activity, believes that the storm drain marking will warn the community not to dump anything into the drain. “To inform and educate, that’s what we’re really trying to do here, especially the restaurants and all businesses in Garapan.”

CRM enforcement officer John San Nicolas said the storm drain marking is a “good thing” that would impact the island’s coral reefs in a positive way.

The project is funded by a $12,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Conservation Program. Eller said the grant includes not just the markings but also the printing of outreach materials that will be made available to the public in the next two weeks.

“We will also try to work with business establishments in Garapan to create promotions to support pollution reduction measures,” she added.

Eller encourages the community to volunteer for the storm drain marking project. To volunteer or for more information, call DEQ at 664-8500 and look for Olivia Tebuteb.

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