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The Massachusetts Statewide Municipal Stormwater Coalition this month launched a statewide campaign to increase awareness about the harmful effects of stormwater pollution on the state’s waterways.
With the launch of the Think Blue Massachusetts campaign, the coalition aims to help residents and businesses reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff in order to protect Massachusetts lakes, rivers and streams.
A kick-off event was held on Oct. 5 with fifth grade students at the Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton. Martin Suuberg, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, explained what happens to stormwater after a rainfall and why it is important not to treat stormwater drains as trash cans.
“There is a lack of understanding statewide about what stormwater runoff is and where it goes,” said Charlton Town Administrator Robin Craver, who serves as chair of the stormwater coalition and coordinated the kick-off event. “Further, cities and towns now have state and federal mandates requiring them to mitigate pollution in stormwater. A successful education campaign helps residents and elected officials understand the importance of funding these programs.”
The coalition formed in 2016 to help cities and towns meet the requirements of the new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems permit. The MS4 permit requires municipalities to implement an education program about stormwater issues of significance for residents, businesses, developers and industrial facilities. Over the five-year permit term, municipalities must distribute two educational messages, at least one year apart, to the four different audiences.
Using a yellow rubber ducky as its campaign mascot, Think Blue aims to educate the public about proper disposal of pet waste, lawn chemicals, construction debris, and other items that too often pollute Massachusetts waterways. The students in Stoughton were each given a rubber ducky with Think Blue emblazoned on the front as a reminder of what they learned at the kick-off event.
“The mascot is a recognizable icon that has been used in other states and produced a measured positive behavior change toward stormwater issues,” Craver said.
In addition to participating in learning stations led by representatives from MassDEP and the stormwater coalition, the students also heard from Stoughton Interim Town Manager Marc Tisdelle, who was the town engineer when he led a project to build a rain garden at the Gibbons School to help filter stormwater runoff.
The statewide stormwater coalition comprises 10 regional stormwater groups representing 130 municipalities across Massachusetts. With the help of a $200,000 grant from MassDEP, the coalition has prepared extensive print and digital educational materials, found on their website, which municipalities can use or adapt to meet the educational requirement under the MS4 permit.
“The coalition is committed to creating open source materials that can be used by municipalities to meet their MS4 requirement with minimal effort,” Craver said. “We believe in creating it once and using it many times.
“We would like to thank MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg for his support for the project and participation in the kick-off event.”
For more information, visit thinkbluemassachusetts.org.