Clogged storm drains need attention

By Rodney Nash

I love water. There’s almost nothing I love more than jumping into a cool, clear lake or river on a hot summer day. I will even swim in the muddy Mississippi. That’s why I hope that the folks upstream have a Stormwater Program like the City of Memphis, to ensure runoff is clear and uncontaminated as it flows out to our surrounding bodies of water. We were the first city in the country to have a stormwater collection system installed after the Yellow Fever epidemic of the 1800’s. We are now initiating this citywide program to deal with groundwater issues. The rainfall, in our immediate area, flows into the storm drain system that feeds into three main tributaries to the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, or it collects in the sand aquifers and goes back underground. Therefore, it is crucial that we keep the flow unimpeded and keep groundwater pollution to a minimum, or ideally, eliminate it altogether.

Your CYCA needs volunteers to help label and maintain the neighborhood storm drains. The curbside inlets and grates get clogged with too much debris, both natural and manmade, for them to collect and drain all of the runoff, especially during periods of heavy rainfall. Ordinarily, there are city crews that work to keep them clear and fully functional, but they are overtaxed. According to Sharon Gordon, Storm Water Projects Coordinator for the city’s Division of Public Works, the majority of street flooding during the recent heavy rains is due to clogged storm drains!

CYCA representatives, with Sharon, recently mapped some of the more than 200 storm drains in the neighborhood, and assessed their condition and functionality. On Saturday, June 26 at 9 am, we will meet at the Gazebo at Cooper and Young to begin the process of labeling them. Our goal is to get as many identified as possible to increase awareness of their location, and stress the importance of the issues around maintaining them and preserving groundwater quality. Please join us and help us reach our goal. We are also seeking residents to participate in an “Adopt a Storm Drain” program. If you would be willing to contribute to this effort, or already do and would like to notify us, we are attempting to get every drain in every location in the community adopted.

To reduce or eliminate groundwater contamination:

  • NEVER pour anything harmful on the ground, into the gutters, or the storm drains!
  • RECYCLE or dispose chemicals and paint properly on hazardous waste collection day, or at the city’s designated HWC site. Businesses such as AutoZone and JiffyLube collect motor oil, as well.
  • COMPOST or mulch leaves, clippings, and other yard waste.
  • CLEAN loose dirt, sand, rubble, litter, or any other material out of the gutters and drain openings.
  • REDUCE the amounts of chemicals used on lawns, eliminate the phosphorous in fertilizers (most soil has enough), and sweep any excess off walks and driveways. Remember compost and manure contain phosphorous, too. It feeds algae blooms and reduces the amount of oxygen in fish habitats.
  • AVOID excess watering and runoff.
  • REMOVE pet waste and dispose properly. The best method is flushing.
  • WASH vehicles in a car wash that treats or recycles wastewater, or wash cars on the lawn where greywater can be absorbed into the ground.
  • USE common sense and be conscious of the fact that anything that washes down a storm drain is ultimately discharged into the groundwater system.
  • HELP us label the storm drains on Saturday, June 26th. See you there!

Next in this column: Increasing participation in curbside recycling, and expanding recycling efforts in plastics, scrap metal (Airways Iron & Metal, 2103 Person, west off Airways south), electronics (, household goods (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Amvets on Summer), etc.

Search online or consult the yellow pages for scrapyards and other locations that take recyclables.

If you have information on more specialized and thorough methods of recycling that can be included, please email me:


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