Princeton residents may soon be able to help keep local waterways clean by adopting a storm drain.
The new program is a partnership between the Sherburne County Public Works Department and the Soil and Water Conservation District. The Princeton City Council approved a joint powers agreement that will allow the program to expand to city-managed stormwater drains.
Functioning similarly to the adopt-a-highway program, storm drain adoption would allow volunteers to select a drain and then clean it at least twice each year. Volunteers would report the litter and debris they cleaned online, according to a draft version of the agreement volunteers would sign.
Interested volunteers will be able to sign up online. Once the website is up and running, volunteers can use it to choose the drains they would like to adopt using a map. Each drain is marked as a green symbol on the map until it is adopted, which is indicated by a gray symbol.
Volunteers can be as young as 12, but anyone 17 years old and younger must be accompanied by an adult and have their parents’ or guardians’ approval. The program also requires volunteers clean the drains during daylight hours while wearing safety vests, and they must report illicit or hazardous materials to the local road authority, according to the draft volunteer agreement.
Volunteers are instructed to avoid potential hazardous materials, such as:
• Abandoned containers including buckets, paint cans, coolers and bottles containing an unknown liquid.
• Regulated waste like batteries, dead animals and medical waste.
• Hazardous materials such as explosives or chemicals.
• Illicit discharge, which can appear as water with a sheen, color or otherwise unusual appearance or odor, or water that causes unusual staining.
Volunteers also should avoid picking up noxious weeds like poison ivy as well as insects and other animals, according to the safety guidelines submitted to the council.
If any regulated waste or unusual water conditions are found, volunteers should report it to their coordinator, according to the guidelines.
In a letter to the City Council, the Soil and Water Conservation District stated the program can help residents learn about stormwater, reduce pollution entering local waterways and decrease potential drain clogs — which helps reduce local flood risks.
Everything that enters storm drains goes into local waterways and can harm wildlife and native vegetation. Pollutants can also harm drinking water and degrade recreational areas, according to a preliminary version of the program’s website.
While the program will start in just the Sherburne County portion of Princeton, it could expand into the rest of Princeton, which mostly resides in Mille Lacs County. Staff pointed to past collaborations with the Sherburne County Soil and Water Conservation District, such as a tree trimming program, which eventually expanded to serving the whole city.
The exact start date for the program was not disclosed at the meeting. Representatives of the Soil and Water Conservation District could not be reached for comment as of press time.