FLI Spearheads Storm Drain Project – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

FLI Spearheads Storm Drain Project

In an effort to spread awareness about the Castle Creek Watershed and its quality, Finger Lakes Institute Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Meyer spearheaded a storm drain labeling project to mark 500 storm drains throughout the Geneva community. The project was funded by a grant from the Ontario County Water Resource Council.

“We want to shed light on the value and role of our local urban stream,” says Meyer. In hopes of creating ownership and a sense of identity with the often neglected and overlooked channelized Castle Creek, the project deliverables emphasize the importance of water pollution prevention for the good of Ontario County’s public, environment, and economy.”

A watershed is the area of land where all of the water, that is under it or drains off of it, goes into the same place. The project focuses on the ecosystem of Castle Creek, part of the Geneva Drainage District. The creek flows through agricultural land (upstream) and then into the City of Geneva, passing through suburban and urban landcover (downstream) before emptying into Seneca Lake, the drinking water source for Geneva and over 70,000 watershed residents.

Meyer says their first labeling priority is the Castle Creek watershed, but they are purposefully trying to run over the perimeter of the watershed to line the streets that may have higher rates of pedestrian traffic to bring greater exposure to where storm water flows and its relationship to Seneca Lake.

Since April 2014, Meyer has engaged both the HWS campus and surrounding community with the project by organizing different opportunities for students and community members to participate in labeling. Over the summer, six public events were held for community members and their families to participate in labeling storm drains in different zones throughout Geneva. Meyer says they have also worked with community groups such as Geneva Night Out, Girl Scouts of America, and  HWS classes to reach their goal of labeling more than 500 storm drains.

Several groups of HWS students also contributed to the effort. In the spring, Shannon Beston ’14 worked with the Finger Lakes Institute and a group of Day of Service student volunteers to label the storm drains on campus. Student interns at the FLI’s Community Design Center also spent an afternoon labeling storm drains downtown. Meyer plans to take a group of students from Associate Professor of Geoscience Tara Curtin’s first-year seminar on water to label 90 more storm drains.

“We’ve had a good turnout,” Meyer says. “I think students, who are not from Geneva, may not be aware that Castle Creek exists or where to find it, and this volunteer opportunity introduces them to the Creek and encourages acknowledgment that it’s draining through Geneva and impacts our drinking water source.”

This isn’t the first effort to bring awareness to the importance of Castle Creek in the area. Meyer and HWS Instructional Technologist Rob Beutner have done previous research to map storm water inputs to the creek and to groundtruth map the creek itself. Director of Introductory Biology Laboratories Susan Cushman and Professor of Enviornmental Studies John Halfman have done continuous research on the water quality and health of the creek. To present current research results to the public, Meyer produced a “Going With The Flow” window display in 2012 for an Exchange St. storefront explaining the status of Castle Creek’s health and the significance of the creek to our local drainage.

There have also been several creek cleanups in recent years, including an effort on behalf of a local Girls Scout troop and the Hobart rowing team, in which Meyer says they pulled out everything from mattresses to tires from the creek. International Coastal Cleanup events are held by the Finger Lakes Institute each year in Geneva in an effort to “maintain the beauty of the Seneca Lake shoreline and amplify pollution prevention,” Meyer says.

“It’s nice to help people connect to Castle Creek and recognize it as a watershed that can be healthy and cared for, and that we do actually impact it,” says Meyer. “We’re bringing attention to Castle Creek and the stewardship we can do every day in Geneva to protect our water quality.”