Please don’t pollute: drains to Mississippi River

The Mississippi River flows quietly through our hometown and most of us would never intentionally pollute it. But all it takes is one big rain, and the stuff on the streets — pop bottles, dirt, oil — spills down the storm drains and right into the river.

Renisha Gray, youth manager for Emerge, says that protecting storm drains from litter is important. A nonprofit dedicated to creating workforce and housing programs, Emerge partnered with Hennepin County for a recent beautification project — employing youth street crews to stencil messages on storm drains throughout North Minneapolis.

The stencil message — “Please Don’t Pollute: Drains to Mississippi River” — is a reminder that storm water run-off doesn’t go to a waste water facility to be filtered and cleaned.

“They know now that when I put that pop bottle on the ground, it gets in the drain and goes into the river,” Gray says. “When we put that trash in the river, it affects all the animals, the fish and the turtles. That stuff goes down to New Orleans and goes into the ocean.”

Keeping our streets and storm drains clean is part of a strategy to improve the quality of Minnesota’s lakes rivers and streams.

DrainswebsplashThere are a number of actions you can take to improve Minnesota’s lakes, rivers and streams:

Adopt a storm drain: Keep storm drains clear. Learn more about adopting a storm drain and stenciling program in Minneapolis:

Use your rain runoff: It’s ideal for watering lawns and gardens. Collect rain water in rain barrels or redirect downspouts to your garden and lawn.

Don’t rake grass clippings and leaves into the street: When they get washed down the storm drain and into the river, they contribute to excess algae growth. Algae blooms stress fish, wildlife and other plants and can be unsafe. Algae can make swimming and fishing unpleasant or impossible.

Scoop the poop: Pet waste contains bacteria that can cause illness in humans and animals.

Fertilize smart: Excess fertilizer washes away and contributes to excess algae.

Plant a rain garden: Rain gardens are depressions planted with a diverse mix of native wildflowers and grasses designed to collect rainwater and allow it to soak into the soil.

Replace turf with native plants: Swap some of your high-maintenance lawn for low-maintenance native ground cover, plants or grasses.

Reduce your footprint: Replace some pavement — such as a walk, patio or driveway—with pavers or pervious pavement. The porous surface will allow water to seep through.

To learn more about actions you can take to protect our land and water, go to


This information was provided by Hennepin County Environmental Services Environmental Education & Outreach.