Around 90 eighth-grade student members of the middle school’s Omega House were out in force Thursday to help encourage Jamestown residents to keep toxic waste and other debris out of the city’s storm drain system that leads directly to the James River.

“It’s a tradition,” said Alexes Prasek, eighth-grade student. “The Omegas do this every year.”

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The annual Water Day event is planned on or around Earth Day and is nearing its 20th year, said Tiffany Dooley, middle school eighth-grade earth science teacher. The event is held in conjunction with the Water Quality Division of the North Dakota Department of Health and with the assistance and permission of the city of Jamestown Water Plant.

“It’s our community service learning project,” Dooley said.

The students and their parent chaperones are given maps that direct them to various sections of Jamestown, she said. The students paint using a stencil awareness messages on city storm drains with spray paint provided by the water plant, and stencils from the Water Quality Division, she said.

The students spray paint the words, “Dump No Waste,” with an image of a fish underneath, and then the words “Drains to River” underneath the fish image.

“We don’t want to kill the fish,” said Josie Hanson, eighth-grade student.

Along the way the students picked up trash and swept the areas around the storm sewer drains clear to paint but also to prevent debris from going into the system.

“We are also picking up garbage as we walk by,” said Josie Banet, eighth-grade student.

The students also place pamphlets on door knobs with information to remind residents that carelessly discarded lawn chemicals, animal waste, antifreeze and used motor oil that can make its way to a storm drain will go directly into the James River with wastewater, she said. The message is to clean brushes in sinks, wash cars on grass and not on the driveway or street, and to use kitty litter to absorb spills, she said.

The storm water drain goes right to the river and that affects the whole ecosystem,” Dooley said.

We want to let people know that when trash and chemicals gets into the storm water system it not only affects the rivers and reservoirs, it eventually impacts the community

said Tia McMillan, eighth-grade Omega House member.

“We’ve learned so much by going out to the Pipestem Reservoir and other sources of water,” McMillan said.

Dirt is the biggest problem in the storm drains and contractors now build barriers around sites to prevent debris from getting into the storm drains, Dooley said. Gas stations and fire departments have absorbent materials to prevent fuel and oils spills from reaching storm drains, she said.