Colorful discs mark MU storm drains

Sunday, January 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:01 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The stencils painted on Columbian’s storm drains might be replaced with something different come summer.

Aqua and purple discs bearing a purple fish and the white block words “No dumping, drains to stream” have been placed adjacent to storm drains throughout the MU campus. The 79 discs are part of a trial to determine if they will be used by the city to supplement the Storm Drain Stenciling Project.

Todd Houts, assistant director of environmental health and safety at MU, said that the goal of the discs is to increase community awareness about the differences between storm and sanitary drains and to prevent illegal dumping.

The water that goes down storm drains washes into streams, Houts said. Anything that goes down a storm drain besides rainwater can be a potential pollutant, said Sherry Fischer, a stream team biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation. Rain can wash antifreeze, oil and gas can wash off roadways , she said.

“I’m excited about the project because (it will create) a heightened state of environmental consciousness,” said Roger Giles, manager of hazardous materials-field operations at MU.

Dennie Pendergrass, chief of operations for Columbia Public Works, said they wanted to see how the discs would hold through the winter and how much glue to use.

The city purchased 500 discs at $2.08 each, and 100 were given to MU to conduct a pilot study. Because of a November warm spell, employees were able to get the discs down earlier than expected. It took two hours to install 45 discs the first day, and an hour and a half to attach 34 the second day.

“Prior to the glue setting is when the discs are most vulnerable to being dislodged,” Giles said.

If the discs hold up, Pendergrass said the goal is to install additional discs throughout the city during the summer.

Despite the approximate $1,000 spent on the discs, Houts said the discs will not be as expensive as stenciling.

Pendergrass said that even though there isn’t as much cost involved with the stenciling project, the discs should last substantially longer and in turn cost less.

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