Markers have recently been set up adjacent to Cal Poly’s storm drains to remind people that whatever goes down the channels ends up in San Luis Creek.
“Most people don’t realize those storm drains don’t have treatment, that they go straight to (San Luis) creek. Most people think that those cute little storm drains go to a treatment plant, but they don’t,” said Kim Busby, equipment technician for environmental health and safety.
Two hundred of the markers, which say, “DUMP NO WASTE, DRAINS TO CREEK,” have already been installed on the curbs adjacent to the storm drains along Cal Poly’s major thoroughfares, including Highland, Perimeter and Grand streets. Eight hundred more markers will eventually be installed next to every storm drain at Cal Poly.
Tracy Thatcher, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said leaking oil from cars and soap used to wash cars are the most common types of pollutants to go down storm drains. She said the markers are a good way to inform people about the importance of keeping them clear of pollutants.
“People tend to be surprised that there isn’t a sewage drainage system. When people become aware of that, then people are more careful,” Thatcher said.
Animal and concrete waste and wash water from hosing down buildings are the biggest culprits of pollutants on campus, Busby said. To combat these problems, the agriculture department uses controlled grazing for their cattle and gives them limited access to waterways. In addition, “mutt mitts,” plastic bags used for picking up animal waste, are available at each campus entrance.
During building wash projects, water used is rerouted to grass areas. The university has also implemented good housekeeping measures like street sweeping, handing out spill response kits and providing training for the agriculture and facilities departments.
The markers are part of a larger Cal Poly education and outreach plan to prevent San Luis Creek from becoming polluted. The environmental health and safety department plans to host open forums and creek cleanup events as extensions of this plan.