Troop members, from left, Ella Sutula, Farrah Finley, Anna Heyn, Lexi Verbanac and Natalie Norton stand proudly after stenciling storm drains. The girls were chaperoned by troop leaders Jolene Finley and Sarah Heyn, and parent Sarah Marx. submitted photo
by Alison Niescier
The path of an urban raindrop is frequently misunderstood.
That was the message of the Green Lake Association (GLA), who teamed up with the Girl Scouts of Ripon Troop 6238 on May 10 at Ripon’s Barlow Park. The Troop labeled storm drains with “Dump No Waste, Drains to Lake” at the entrance of Barlow Park along Griswold Street and in the parking lot at Barlow Park/Journey Elementary School.
“We wanted the girls to stencil storm drains in locations where they would see their work on a regular basis,” troop leader Sarah Heyn explained. “They liked helping their school and park, but they loved being together doing a unique, permanent activity that they can show other kids and their families.”
The scouts learned that when rain runoff is not properly managed, it flows over impervious surfaces — rooftops, streets and driveways — into the nearest storm drain and eventually enters larger bodies of water like Green Lake.
Urban runoff does not get treated by wastewater treatment facilities and instead flows untreated into waterways collecting pollutants along the way. These pollutants include oil, grease, pet waste, yard fertilizers and even tree leaves.
“This activity was our ‘Take Action’ portion of the Wonders of Water Journey, an additional enhancement patch to the four-part journey that many of our girls completed this past fall,” Heyn said. “We hope the girls continue to make connections between their actions — not littering or dumping pollutants — and protecting the water. Especially since many of our girls love to swim, boat and fish on Green Lake.”
Many urban pollutants contain phosphorus, which fuel weed and algae growth in Green Lake.
As the plants and algae naturally decompose, the process consumes oxygen. In extreme circumstances, a lack of oxygen forms a dead zone, making it impossible for aquatic life to survive. Residents may be unknowingly polluting the lake and harming fish populations without even realizing it.
Water that enters indoor drains within the city of Ripon from showers, laundry and toilets, flows to its wastewater treatment facility and is cleaned before being discharged to Silver Creek. On the other hand, urban stormwater runoff enters the storm sewer system and is not treated before discharging into Silver Creek and Green Lake.
Simple acts such as redirecting downspouts to angle toward the yard or a flower bed instead of flowing down the driveway can play a role in protecting the lake.
For residents interested in minimizing the negative impact of urban runoff:
> Do not pour anything into the storm sewer drains
> Prevent leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste from overflowing onto the curb
> Do not pour paints, solvents or cleaners into the storm drain
> Repair oil leaks and prevent gasoline spills
> Minimize the use of herbicide and pesticides
> Encourage water to flow into the ground through rain gardens and other landscape features
“Participating in community service as a Brownie troop is an important way to teach the girls that volunteering and helping in the community can be fun and meaningful,” Heyn said. “Doing positive community activities with friends who have the same values, gives them more confidence to keep doing community service in the future with their friends.”
Alison Niescier is the project manager for the Green Lake Association, a local not-for-profit that works to improve water quality for Green Lake.
To register your daughter for Girl Scouts, contact Girl Scouts of Northwestern Great Lakes at 888.747.6945 or gsnwgl.org.