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Storm drain stencils in Hamburg are effort to protect Lake Erie

Whatever goes down the street drains eventually makes its way to Lake Erie.

That's what Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, wants everyone to know. And after Saturday, there will be reminders of that on some streets in the Village of Hamburg.

Volunteers organized by Ryan's office will be painting stencils around the drains in Hamburg to let people know about storm drain pollution.

"Our goal is to increase awareness that these systems are connected, and that we can impact the cleanliness and quality of Woodlawn Beach right from home," Ryan said in a letter to constituents and volunteers.

The event is called Protect Woodlawn Beach, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., shifts of more than 70 volunteers will be stenciling a white fish with the words, "Dump no waste. Leads to beach," around storm drains.

There are 1,389 drains in the village, and not all will be stenciled. Some of the streets that will be targeted include Highland, Prospect, Maple and Pleasant avenues, Union Street and Oliver Place, among others.

A lot of the work to keep sewage overflows from reaching Lake Erie and Woodlawn Beach has already been done, including the $16 million Rush Creek Interceptor to eliminate three existing overflows and the Blasdell Wastewater Treatment Plant. The state Legislature also passed legislation investing $2.5 billion to improve current water conditions and to introduce preventative measures.

Sewer overflows are not the only source of pollution at the beach. Soap from washing cars as well as runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste and oil can flow down driveways with the rain and melting snow into the drains, which flow into streams and creeks and eventually reach the lake.

"By reducing waste entering the system, we can reduce beach closures and preserve our beach for years to come," Ryan said in his note.

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