U.S. Water News Online
SAN FRANCISCO -- Three San Francisco Bay area water pollution control agencies -- Bay Area Pollution Prevention Group, Bay Area Storm Water Management Agencies Association, and Bay Area Dischargers Association -- have joined together to raise public awareness of how wastewater and stormwater pollution occurs and what can be done to prevent it.
This first-of-its-kind media relations campaign for the region will be spearheaded by SR Marketing, a public relations and marketing firm which specializes in serving environmental agencies and organizations.
SR Marketing has a solid track record in such campaigns, receiving a 1995 Compass Award from the Public Relations Society of America for a stormwater pollution prevention campaign on behalf of The Lindsay Museum funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But according to company founder Susan Reynolds, the up-coming Bay Area-wide campaign, which will continue through the end of June, is the first time stormwater and wastewater pollution will be addressed jointly as related aspects of the same basic problem.
"The truth is," said Reynolds, "individuals are the number one source of stormwater pollution, or urban runoff. And what goes down storm drains -- motor oil, house paint, any of the toxic substances commonly used in households -- finds its way into our wastewater systems."
But wastewater treatment plants, explains Reynolds, are simply not equipped to deal with anything but organic wastes, so toxic materials that find their way into the system through carelessness or ignorance eventually end up in the ecosystem. Unless the problem is corrected, she said, such pollution can have long-term negative impacts.
The stormwater media relations campaign will be two-pronged, said Reynolds, focusing on educating the press and media on this issue, as well as the general public.
"We need to sell the public not only on the need for ecologically sound alternatives to conventional products and practices," she said, but offer them alternatives that are both easy to use and cheap."
Toothpaste, for example, is an excellent substitute for silver polish, according to Reynolds. It works as well, is not toxic, and is cheaper than the products people are accustomed to using. Likewise, hot water and vinegar provide an attractive alternative to more toxic window cleaning products, she said.
"The key," said Reynolds, "is getting people to change their habits."
Reynolds points to a success story in the Bay area -- a recent ban on copper sulfate, once used to kill the roots of trees and plants that commonly penetrate household pipes and drains. The ban was the result of a public education campaign on the negative effects the copper was having on the Bay ecosystem.
As a result of that campaign, she said, there has been a measurable reduction of copper in the San Francisco Bay area. "Even a small change in public attitude," she said, "can make a difference."
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