Summer Series – Youth in Action: Students Work with County Board on Storm Drain Screen Project

We’re introducing a four-week summer series featuring amazing young people across the country who are leading positive environmental change in their communities. With the support of Earth Force and outstanding local partners, youth learn firsthand what it means to be in the driver’s seat as their communities face the challenges that come from our rapidly changing environment.

Students Work with County Board on Storm Drain Screen Project – Arlington, VA

Students from Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, VA are working with the Arlington County Board to place screens on storm drains around Four Mile Run.

Last fall, students investigated the health of Four Mile Run, which is near their school. They were encouraged to discover that, since the 1950s, the health of Four Mile Run has only improved. However, they noticed litter and pollutants such as car batteries, motor oil cans, broken bottles, and rusty metal objects in the water, many of which can give off hazardous toxic chemicals. These objects are especially prominent in Arlington because it is an urban county.

APS Board Kenmore edited small (1)

Students understood that the health of Four Mile Run may be better now, but it wouldn’t last for long if pollutants continued to enter the waterway. They decided to research options that would prevent trash from entering the storm drains in the first place. They discovered that Los Angeles had a lot of success using storm drain screens to improve the health of the L.A. River. Students proposed using screens on storm drains surrounding Four Mile Run, specifically focusing on drains that are situated at the bottom of large hills or inclines, to create a barrier between larger pollutants and the waterway.

The students presented their proposal to the Arlington Country Board, asking for an allocation to help make their project a reality. They received accolades for their research into the county’s budget and their rationale around the placement of the screens. One board member asked that the students determine how to measure whether their proposed solution is actually working. Listen to their presentation and the discussion among the board here. (Student presenters are at 32:00-35:00 and County Board discussion of proposal is from 47:30-55:11.)

APS Board Kenmore edited small (1)

The students received some funding from international agriculture company, Agrium, to begin implementing their project and are continuing to work with the school board to improve Four Mile Run.

Author: Kristen Mueller

Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.