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Rain reveals North Hempstead’s storm-water awareness effort

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth pours water to

North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth pours water to reveal the town's new rain-activated sidewalk art campaign on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

North Hempstead residents can look forward to the next wet day, when the rain will reveal a bevy of secret messages spread across the town, with this painted slogan: “Only Rain in the Drain.”

The rain-activated sidewalk art is part of the town’s campaign to raise awareness about storm-water pollution and its impact on local waterways.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said at a recent news conference that the art would help residents make the connection between storm drains and waterways, and remind them that storm water is not treated before it enters local waters.

“Most people don’t think much about them [storm drains]. But we are going to change that,” Bosworth said. “Polluted storm water can affect our sources of drinking water, which in turn, can affect our health. Storm water travels to our bays and harbors, where it can harm water quality and wildlife, and even make it unsafe to swim.”

Residents will come across the art, which is painted with an invisible coating that shows up when wet, at various locations across town, including the dock in Port Washington and Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson.

The town has more than 605,000 linear feet of storm-water drainage systems, which are connected to Manhasset and Little Neck bays, Hempstead Harbor and 49 recharge basins. Major culprits of pollution include litter, dog waste, fertilizer, motor oil and pesticides.

“One of the most important problems our bays and harbors have is bacteria. . . . It prevents us from shellfishing and causes beach closures,” said Erin Reilley, the town’s chief sustainability officer, in a recent news release.

The art campaign is part of the town’s greater initiative to act as stewards of the environment, Bosworth said. In addition to public education, the town is working on tracking water pollution using an electronic map of drainage systems throughout North Hempstead. The project, funded by a $316,250 grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, includes the town, 20 villages and the city of Glen Cove.

The maps would help pinpoint areas of potential water pollution, such as failing septic systems, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere. A $283,716 contract was awarded in February 2016 to Mineola-based Bowne Management Systems. The company has since completed mapping the town’s storm-water system and is now mapping 19 villages within the town, Trottere said.

The town’s latest campaign will help reinforce the message that water pollution doesn’t magically disappear, said Eric Swenson, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee.

“We have seen tremendous progress over those years in restoring the health of Hempstead Harbor, but there is still a lot more that needs to be done,” Swenson added.

Bosworth said the health of local waterways is everybody’s responsibility.

“We are all guardians of the water, and it’s our responsibility to make sure nothing but rain goes down our storm drains,” Bosworth said.

Rain, runoff and residents

  • 605,000 linear feet of storm-water drainage in the Town of North Hempstead
  • Storm water enters Manhasset and Little Neck bays, Hempstead Harbor and 49 recharge basins
  • Storm-water pollution can include runoff from roads and lawns, such as pesticides, sediment, litter and automotive fluids
  • Residents can call 311 to request rain art at local storm drains or report storm-water pollution

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