(Certified Best Practice by BMPCOE)
City of Chattanooga - Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga uses an innovative and successful program to educate its general public on the importance of preventing the introduction of pollutants into the natural waterways that run through the City. Operating on a small budget, the program uses several approaches to inform citizens of the consequences of improper disposal of various materials that may empty into the waterways.
This public education effort started in 1992 with the distribution of a periodic newsletter, The Clear Choice. The newsletter focused on topics relating to stormwater management such as land-disturbing regulations, the federally-mandated National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements, stormwater discharge permitting requirements, offers of Erosion Control classes,
notification of awards won by the City for clean water activities, and other opportunities for personal involvement underway.
A particular, targeted concern addressed by this newsletter and other educational efforts was the typical "out of sight, out of mind" attitude that often accompanied the improper disposal of some materials such as:
- dumping car radiator antifreeze or engine oil down storm drains,
- performing car maintenance on city streets where leaking/drained fluids can end up in the storm drains,
- rinsing fuel spills from auto/truck accidents into storm drains,
- improper storage of discarded greases or cooking oils from restaurants, and
- uncontrolled erosion from construction sites.
Chattanooga also created a water quality mascot called Clear Choice (CC) Otter to use as an informative and concerned tutor in pamphlets and other simple instructional materials. In addition to the informative material, items such as drink bottles and visors have been created to keep CC Otter-and what he symbolizes-in the public eye. A highly-popular, costumed version of CC Otter participates in many civic functions such as Earth Day celebrations, local festivals, and scouting events to continue educational efforts.
Other important educational aspects of water quality are presented in kits available to the public such as a "Dump No Waste-Drains to Rivers" stencil for storm drain grills. Doorknob tags describing the problems with pollutants being dumped into storm drains are also available for distribution, and are used when a pollutant is regularly entering the storm drains from a particular neighborhood.
All public relations efforts are paid for by stormwater permitting fees, and amounts to approximately 5% of the total Stormwater Management Department budget. Estimates placed at 60,000 local people have been directly reached since 1993 through the education and outreach programs, with a significant number being reached through the indirect programs. As a result, Chattanooga's residents continue to become more environmentally conscious and protective of their natural resources.