Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In Our Backyard

(From Stef McGarvey 06 at the DEP)



Many Maine residents will never look at a rubber ducky quite in the same way after seeing them in TV ads morph into pollutants, such as oil, cigarette butts, or pet waste. The concept is "if stormwater pollution were rubber duckies, we wouldn't have a problem, but it's not". One reason the ducky ads have been so successful is because they catch your attention and allow you to visualize what stormwater pollution is.

Let's take a closer look at the 'innocent' little yellow ducks. First of all it's important to know the basics about stormwater. Stormwater is simply water that is produced during a storm or through snowmelt that does not soak into the ground – it runs over the ground. Depending on where you are, stormwater may flow into a storm drain, down the curb or ditch, or directly into a waterway, for example a river. The path it takes to the river is where the rubber ducks come into play because they represent what the stormwater comes in contact with along its journey. As each piece of trash, drip of oil, cigarette butt, and pet waste from here and there morphs into a rubber duck, they come together to create a massive yellow plume that flows down the river and out to sea. The rubber ducks splash in the waves with the children playing at the beach while the person surfing is alarmed by all the rubber ducks floating around him.

Stormwater pollution arises from our everyday activities, and is one of the largest sources of water quality problems in the United States. We may unintentionally contribute to stormwater pollution, but we can voluntarily help protect Maine's waters. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates that between 40 and 70 percent of rain that falls on the average Maine residential lot runs off.

The best way to reduce the effects of stormwater is to reduce the amount of stormwater leaving your property. This can be done by redirecting roof and driveway runoff onto your lawn or flowerbeds or collecting roof runoff in rain barrels. If you cannot reduce the quantity of stormwater leaving your property, you can reduce or eliminate sources of pollution that it comes in contact with. There are many ways to do this for example repairing cars and snowmobiles that leak fluids or storing leaking vehicles inside.

For other ways you can help keep Maine's waters clean, visit

The ads are a part of a statewide mass media campaign by the Think Blue Maine Partnership. The Partnership was formed in 2004 in response to federal Clean Water Act requirements and consists of Maine's 36 regulated municipalities and other entities, state agencies and not-for-profit groups. The Partnership is a collaborative approach to the public education portion of the stormwater requirements, which helps the communities save money while at the same time creating a stronger more unified message.

Think blue because clean water starts with you!

This column was submitted by Christine Rinehart, a Project Engineer with Wright-Pierce in Topsham, Maine. In Our Back Yard is a weekly column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

No comments: