This presentation by Owen Sound resident Suza Sarnecki will be made at Owen Sound Council on Monday night.

The following is a request for permission to stencil a warning at storm drains in Owen Sound indicating that water and debris entering these drains goes directly into the harbour, lake, river or stream without any treatment; and for the City to provide the paint required, and to consult on where the stencil will be painted and the style of the stencil. All work required to do the stencilling will be provided by volunteers.

Screen Shot 2020 07 12 at 9.27.17 PMAs a volunteer with Owen Sound Waste Watchers I have participated in their Litter Pick Up events. On June 13, 2020, I personally collected 877 cigarette butts on 2nd Avenue West between 7th Street West and 10th Street West on the west side only. I was not anticipating that number of butts as there had been a heavy rain just days before on June 10th. On May 23, I picked up 532 butts on the same street from 7th Street West to 9th Street West.

During the June 13 Litter Pick Up event, eight Owen Sound Waste Watcher volunteers picked up 3,615 items, over 2,500 of which were cigarette butts.

I think that if more people were aware that everything that gets washed into the Storm Water drains ends up in the harbour, they would not toss their butts or garbage onto the street.

Cigarette filters pose a serious litter and toxic waste disposal problem. Cellulose acetate is photodegradable but not bio-degradable. Although ultraviolet rays from the sun will eventually break the filter into smaller pieces under ideal environmental conditions, the acetate never disappears; it essentially becomes diluted in water or soil.

Although not all of the butts were found in the gutter, if they were discarded at the same rate for one year that would be approximately 15,000 butts. If only half of those discarded were washed into storm drains, 7,500 butts would end up in the Harbour from just one side of three city blocks.

Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter, as an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away every year worldwide. Many chemical products are used during the course of growing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes, the residues of which may be found in cigarettes prepared for consumption. Cigarette butt leachate has been proven to be toxic to fish and bacteria in fresh and salt water.

Other communities have addressed this issue by stencilling a message at Storm Drains to increase awareness.drainstp

At some of the Storm Drains in Owen Sound, warnings have been applied noting: “Rainwater Only”.
This is good but does not impress upon the reader – the possible litterer - that everything entering that drain goes untreated to the harbour I am seeking the Council’s permission to apply a stencil at Storm Drains, such as:

No Dumping (Fish Symbol) Drains to Harbour

If permission is granted for the stencilling, I am asking the City’s appropriate department to:

Provide suitable paint to use with stencils
Assist in determining which storms drains would best benefit from stencilling
Advise on and approve the selection of the stencil
Store stencils for future use

Also, if permission is granted, I will:

Engage REACH, Owen Sound Water Watchers, Owen Sound Waste Watchers and others for assistance with stencilling
Purchase the stencils
Start stencilling
Publicize this effort, and encourage smokers to dispose of butts responsibly, through articles in the Hub and local newspapers and on social media