Protecting the Potomac Starts at the Storm Drain

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

Over the last year, the Mason Neck Lions Club and the Boy Scouts of America have been marking local storm drains, and educating citizens in the Lorton area about the connection between our neighborhood activities and the quality of our water resources. Supported by a grant from Fairfax Water, the Mason Neck Lions Club worked with two Eagle Scout candidates, Robbie Stewart and Bryan Galloway to purchase adhesive drain markers with the message “No Dumping – Drains to Potomac.” The two teenagers recruited family, friends, and local citizens to attach the blue and green markers to storm drains in the Crosspointe and Newington Forest communities. During rain events, polluted runoff from both communities drains through the storm drain system directly to Pohick Creek.

The Mason Neck Lions Club's interest in marking storm drains began in 2000, when the Mason Neck Community Association started monitoring water quality in the lower reaches of Pohick Creek. Spurred by evidence of poor water quality in their local stream, the Mason Neck Lions Club started looking for ways to make Pohick Creek healthier. “Our goal is to try to prevent pollution in the watershed and we need to begin upstream at the storm drains,“ explains Joe Chudzik, the Lions Club’s Cultural and Community Activities Chairman and project leader for the storm drain marking program. “It’s at the storm drains that the pet waste, motor oil, fertilizer, yard debris and trash that pollute Pohick Creek are entering the stream.”

The Pohick Creek watershed includes 34 sq. miles in southern Fairfax County, stretching from George Mason University to Pohick Bay. When it rains, water flowing over parking lots, rooftops, roadways and yards throughout the watershed picks up pollutants and carries them through the storm drain system directly to Pohick Creek, and ultimately via the Potomac River to the Chesapeake Bay. “Before I started this project, I realized that polluted runoff was a problem for communities closer to the Chesapeake,” indicates Scout Galloway, “but, now, I understand that we are polluting our streams and ultimately, even the Chesapeake Bay, through our storm drains right here in Lorton.”

A significant part of the storm drain marking project was the distribution of educational fliers describing the connection between storm drains and water quality in Pohick Creek and the Potomac River. Through distribution of these educational fliers and the storm drain marking, Stewart and Galloway can be confident that they have made a large difference in their respective communities. Altogether, the teenagers recruited almost 60 volunteers, educated over 3,000 families and marked almost 750 drains with the “No Dumping – Drains to Potomac” message.

The Mason Neck Lions Club is hoping that the success of the Crosspointe and Newington Forest storm drain projects can be repeated. The group has applied for additional grant funds from Fairfax Water to expand the program to eleven more Pohick Creek watershed communities next year. “The word is out, “ says Joe Chudzik, “The Lions Club has projects for prospective Eagle Scouts within the community. But we just grease the skids, the Scouts do the real work.” Eagle Scout Bryan Galloway’s perspective is slightly different, “I have new respect for people who organize large projects like these. I couldn’t have done this without Joe and the Lions Club, they really made this possible.”

Interested in leading a storm drain stenciling project? Contact the Northern Virginia Soil & Water Conservation District for permit information and project guidance at 703-324-1423, TTY 711 or visit the storm drain marking program web page.

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