Adopt-A-Drain Aims to Make a Collective Impact for Puget Sound and Cleaner Waters

Release Date: May 01, 2022
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Adopt A Drain is catching on in the Puget Sound neighborhoods. Launched in October 2021, there are now nine Cities on board with 591 volunteers adopting 1,067 drains and collecting over 3900 lbs. of debris. Collectively we are protecting our local waters 

The www.adopt-a-drain.org interactive website lets you pick a drain, name it, and track your impact. Most volunteers report it takes about 15 minutes to clean up around the drain one or two times a month. The program, founded by Minnesota-based Hamline University in 2014, now has 50 participating cities with over 10,000 adopters. Members in Washington are seeing rapid growth and hope more cities join and the adopters sign up.  

Puget Sound waterways surrounds us, and every time it rains, storm drain inlets convey rainwater directly into local waterbodies. Even when it rains just a little bit, the storm drains act as channels for trash and pollutants to flow into the nearest stream, river, or lake and eventually Puget Sound. This interconnected ecosystem is vital to fish and wildlife.  

The debris around the drain often includes trash, yard waste like grass clippings, and road grit that comes from engine exhaust and vehicle wear and tear. Here is the science behind these pollutants: 

  • Metals, like copper from brake pads, zinc from tires, and nickel and chromium from engine wear are harmful to fish, even in very low concentrations.  
  • Organic compounds like poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from exhaust and 6PPD-quinone, a tire preservative, are long-lived, cancer-causing, and accumulate in the sediment, causing long-term health impacts. Tiny quantities of 6PPD-Q has been shown to be lethal to Coho salmon in urban streams.  
  • Nutrients like vegetation and leaf drop accumulate on the street and wash into storm drains.  This increase of nutrients in the downstream waterbodies causes excessive algae growth, blocking sunlight from reaching aquatic plants.  Eventually, the algae die and decomposition bacteria suck oxygen from the water, causing dead zones.   

Adopting a nearby drain and keeping it clean not only helps prevent flooding, but also keeps pollutants from getting into the drain in the first place. This animated video helps tell this story.