If the Save the Rain program mandated for Onondaga County seems like a drop in the bucket, that’s because part of it is. . .literally. Through the court order designed to finally get Onondaga Lake cleaned up, the county has had to implement several urban infrastructure improvements including abating the Combined Sewer Overflows that result in untreated sewage pouring into the lake during heavy rainfall.
One new, old-fashioned way to combat this problem is to supply a rain barrel to any city resident who participates in a workshop and agrees to use the barrel in the prescribed way. The next in the series of workshops takes place this Saturday, June 18, during the Greater Strathmore Neighborhood Association’s homes tour and Art on the Porches events.
With the artistic bent to the festivities, Amy Samuels, education and outreach coordinator at the Onondaga Environmental Institute (OEI), contacted Art on the Porches organizers to see about conducting a barrel-painting session as part of the workshop. “A few days later someone different than I had contacted got in touch with me,” Samuels reported. “We were thinking the same thing. I asked them if there are any artists who participate in their event who might like to paint some barrels and be part of a raffle.”
Association president Bernard McMillan had just the artists in mind: schoolchildren at neighborhood Roberts and Most Holy Rosary schools.
The raffle is free, but a donation is welcome. Anyone who participates in a workshop can fill out a raffle ticket distributed there. “If you are so moved you can make a donation to the raffle,” she said. “The money will support Art on the Porches and the Onondaga Earth Corps.”
That last program is a youth development and employment program with a green bent for Syracuse teens. “I teach them so they can learn how to install and maintain green infrastructure and then teach others in the community,” Samuels said. “Some members of the Earth Corps will be co-leading the workshops. We’ll also provide information about Save the Rain.”
Now, about those rain barrels. “Last summer, the county began giving out the rain barrels to city residents and they held some workshops on Tipperary Hill and in Skunk City,” she noted.
“Once the county signed a contract for education and outreach, that portion of the program was contracted out to OEI, which is in charge of offering the rain barrel workshops to the public and so we distribute, with assistance from the county, the rain barrels. We want to prevent water from getting into the storm drains, and this is one way a homeowner can make a difference.”
While the initial grant for the 300 rain barrels was funded through the state Environmental Facilities Corporation Green Innovation Grant Program, with the requirement of city residents only receiving the barrels, future grants could include the rest of Onondaga County. It makes sense at first, since the CSO problem is most prevalent within the city, with aging water mains and pipes contributing to the groundwater mess.
“This program is targeted to specific sewer sheds—areas with CSOs—and not every part of the city has one,” Samuels said. “We offer workshops in specific areas that have CSOs, but anyone who lives in the city can attend and get a free rain barrel.
“Even if folks don’t live in the area where there’s a combined sewer, storm water is still a potential source for pollution, and so installing a rain barrel is a good thing to do even if you live in a part of the city that doesn’t have a CSO. Or it can help reduce flooding. It’s important to do these things no matter where you live, but for now the county has a very specific goal—the worst areas in terms of pollution from runoff are those with these combined sewers.”
The Art on the Porches rain barrel workshops will take place Saturday, June 18, every hour on the quarter-hour, from 11:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., along Ruskin Avenue in the heart of the Strathmore celebration. Participants will be able to paint their barrel at the first five workshops, but not the last, which allows enough time for the paint to dry. If you can’t make this rain barrel workshop, the next one is scheduled for June 23, 6:30 to 7 p.m., at Hazard Branch Library, 1620 W. Genesee St.
If your community group in the city would like to host a rain barrel workshop, or for more information, call Samuels at 443-1757.
Striking It Rich
When Syracuse bowler Jeremy Macri competed in the USBC Open Championships in Reno, Nev., in early June, he hit the lanes armed with balls created by a hometown company and came away with some award money.
Macri rolled high-tech Lane #1 balls, designed and marketed by local pro bowler Richie
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