The health of the May and Okatie rivers is the focus of a new effort by local officials who want residents to act responsibly. New tiles installed on storm drains around town remind cyclists, pedestrians and drivers that nothing except water should be put into storm drains, which flow into delicate waterways.
Shelby Berry of Beaufort County Soil & Water Conservation District and Beth Lewis, storm water technician for the Town of Bluffton, recently worked with volunteers to install about 65 tiles on storm drains along the Bluffton Parkway. The white, blue and green tiles were purchased as part of the county-wide program Neighbors for Clean Water.
“Storm drain tiles are extremely easy to install and are a visual reminder that storm drains are for storm water only,” Lewis said.
Made by a company in Florida, the tiles cost about $2 a piece and are applied with adhesive. Through the storm drain marking efforts, officials hope to increase residents’ awareness about the connection between their yards, the street and storm drains, and local creeks and rivers.
Storm drain marking is common in larger cities, Lewis said. In addition to tiles, some cities use stencils or paint to remind people that trash, pesticides, soap, motor oil and other contaminants shouldn’t be put in storm drains.
During the May River Cleanup on April 23, volunteers will install tiles throughout Old Town Bluffton. Many will be part of local churches, schools and civic groups.
“We’ll be asking volunteers to mark off the drains they complete on a small map so the Town can compile the information into our GIS database,” Lewis said.
One large group is from Lowcountry Community Church, which expects to bring about 100 middle and high school students to help with the cleanup and install tiles, said Samuel Robinowich, the church’s middle school director.
The Town of Bluffton is looking for additional volunteers to help mark storm drains, not only during the May River Cleanup, but also in the future. To volunteer, call 843-706-4559.
Carol Weir of Bluffton is a career journalist and teacher.