On Thursday, June 30, Martinsville Mayor Kathy Lawson presided over the dedication of permanent storm drain markers in Uptown. This project, funded by the Martinsville Uptown Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Martinsville, and the Henry County Rotary Club in partnership with the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) was initiated to bring awareness to the need to protect the water in our local streams and creeks in Uptown Martinsville as they all drain into the Smith River. This was the third and final event of the Inspire Clean Water project supported by Rotary.
“This project will leave a lasting legacy to inspire clean water and environmental protection in Uptown,” said Lawson. “Storms drains work by diverting rainwater and melting snow into nearby bodies of water. Every time it rains, water runs off of roofs and into the street, unfortunately bringing oil, litter, debris and toxins with it. This water then flows into storm drains and then through a system of pipes directly into waterways such as streams and rivers. It is important that nothing but water ever enters a storm drain.”
“Storm drain pollution is actually the number one pollution in Virginia,” said DRBA Virginia Programs Manager Brian Williams. “You don’t think about it, and that’s the whole reason for this campaign, to bring awareness that what goes into the storm drains eventually goes into the Smith River.”
He said the purpose of the campaign was not only to make adults aware of where storm water goes, but to educate youth on the issue from an early age.
The first event of the Inspired Clean Water project, held in Oct. 2021, inspired people to understand how storm drains work when Rotarians and teens from the Boys & Girls Club painted twelve drains in Uptown Martinsville with the inscription “No Dumping, Drains to River.”
The second event was completed this spring, when three winners from the Rotary-sponsored elementary, middle and high school art contests painted their creations on three storm drains in Uptown.
Irene Jewell, a 13-year-old homeschool student from Kernersville, was the winner of the middle school-level art contest. In April, she painted a storm drain on Oakdale Street across from J. Frank Wilson Park in Martinsville.
As she worked to lay down background layers of yellow sand and blue-green water, Jewell remarked that working on her art for the contest was an educational experience. Her initial idea of incorporating a dolphin into her piece morphed into a trout because they are native to the local waterways. Ultimately, she said she decided on a brook trout because they’re native and “because they’re prettier than rainbow trout.”
Additionally, she said, she learned just how large the Dan River Basin truly is.
“We live in Kernersville, and the Dan River Basin stretches from here to there, so it’s a really big basin,” she said.
Last week’s storm drain marking was the final event of the Inspire Clean Water initiative, completing the project with more than a dozen permanent medallions in Uptown reminding people that the storm drains empty into the Smith River.
Lawson remarked that the painted drains would not only bring “the beauty of artwork to Uptown but will be a long-lasting reminder for each of us to be responsible in protecting our water resources.”
She noted that keeping local water clean was doubly important, not only because of environmental concerns, but for financial reason. In other localities, she said, “their water has to go through so many processes, you pay a lot more for it. We’re very fortunate that we have the resources that we do and folks like
(DRBA) to make sure we keep it that way.”
“We’re very fortunate to have an abundance of water supply here in Henry County. We get it right out of the Smith River and it’s clean because Philpott Lake acts like a big settling pond, so we have super clean water already. Fresh water is going to become more and more scarce, and it’s a human right. Everybody needs access to fresh, clean water. We can’t live without it.”
“Storm drain marking is a tangible way to actively engage and motivate citizens to learn more about the connection between storm water and the quality of our rivers,” said Rotarian Dennis Reeves. “We hope this dedication of permanent markers will not
only make people think twice about littering but will also improve the health of our amazing Smith River.”
Rotary Club President Joe Keiper said that one of the newest tenants of Rotary International is protecting the environment and told those gathered last Thursday that it was important to help “put that message out there that we are responsible for our own backyard. We all live downstream.”
Visit www.danriver.org to learn more about storm drain marking and how you can support and protect waterways in your community.