We introduce the process of how pollutants flow from the school campus, through the watershed and all the way to the ocean. Using school site architectural blueprints, we identify storm drains and underground drainage infrastructure and study how they connect with the city's stormwater system through both pipes and natural vegetated areas and into creeks and lagoons and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Understanding of the types and causes of pollution going into the storm drain system is a key element of this program. Each drain type has a different mix of pollutants flowing down based on whether it is a bologna sandwich dropped in the lunch area storm drain or car oil dripping in the parking lot.
Five drain types are studied on each campus:
Interns take samples during rain events at each of the drains and test the samples for the following pollutants:
By researching these pollutants to understand why they are present and their impact on the environment, interns learn about the complex interaction of normal daily activities and their downstream impact.
Rain Event Storm Water Testing
When rain conditions are ideal, interns are notified in their classrooms to gather for a water sampling. They excitedly collect their sampling materials and safety gear and rush to their assigned drains. Using trained sampling techniques, interns collect stormwater, complete an official chain of custody form and hand off the samples to a local lab for testing. When we get the results we compare our results with the EPA benchmarks for each pollutant.
At our second rain event, the interns complete the water testing in class. The SWPPP instructors guide the students through the scientific tests to identify which pollutants are present in their samples and how much.
Best Management Practices
Based on the first rain event lab results, we begin to develop strategies and systems to prevent pollution from entering our drains. Most effort goes into designing, researching and writing about our BMPs. Each Drain Team is responsible for creating three Best Management Practices (BMPs) for their drains:
The ultimate result of the year-long program is the creation of a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan, a SWPPP. Interns present this plan at a community-wide meeting with the School Board. Using student-created video and interactive presentation tools, students share their findings and recommendations. The School Board reviews and votes to accept the findings.