While Eagle Scout Liam Curran is busy studying engineering as a freshman at the College of New Jersey, his Eagle Scout service project 80 miles away in his hometown of Ramsey, N.J., lives on.
Liam, who earned his Eagle as a member of Troop 49 in Oakland, N.J., launched the Adopt A Storm Drain program in early 2021, when he was a junior in high school. Curran, along with his family, friends and fellow Scouts, developed a website and aggressively promoted the program and educated residents at various public events. In addition to allowing residents to easily register and adopt their own drain, the website provides significant educational content about the need for and the benefits of the Adopt A Drain initiative.
Since the program launched, more than 100 drains have been adopted.
It was so successful back then that local officials are encouraging residents to keep up the good work as they enter the rainy season this fall.
“There are approximately 1,100 storm drains in Ramsey, and we don’t have the staff or the resources to constantly keep them all clean,” says Jack D’Agostaro, Ramsey’s department of public works director. “Any program that alleviates any degree of potential flooding is beneficial, so we’re encouraging residents to increase participation and thereby increase the benefit of flooding prevention.”
Liam’s program is very similar to the adopt-a-highway or adopt-a-road programs across the country that ask volunteers to commit to cleaning up a designated area not just once, but repeatedly over a long period of time.
The dangers of clogged storm drains
Liam collaborated with Ramsey’s environmental commission to develop a website and registry for the program. Then he worked hard to spread the word throughout his community.
“I am very happy and proud to know that this program continues to grow, and that I was able to start something that is having a positive impact in my town, and on the environment,” he says. “Caring for a drain is a pretty easy thing to do, and the response has been great.”
In most towns, properly operating storm drains are not just a convenience. They’re a necessity. Clogged drains can’t do their job, which is to direct rainwater away from streets and sidewalks — where it can be dangerous for vehicles, pedestrians and buildings — and into nearby ponds, lakes, rivers and streams.
Drains that become clogged with trash and debris will transport toxic materials into the same bodies of water that the city uses for drinking. In fact, even natural debris that enters drains — such as leaves, grass clippings, sticks and dirt — have a harmful impact on the ecosystem.
Nothing but rain should enter storm drains.
“The Adopt a Drain Program encourages residents, families, businesses, clubs and other groups to pitch in and ‘adopt’ one or more drains that they will then keep clean,” according to an official borough of Ramsey news release.
All the residents have to do is pay attention to the condition of their chosen drain and clear its surface once or twice a month and before predicted rainstorms.
Spreading the word
Liam’s official Adopt A Drain website tells residents all they need to know to participate in the program, including an informative video, an FAQ and a form they submit to adopt any drain. The adopted drains then show up on an interactive map.
“It’s amazing to have had my project appreciated by so many people and to get so much great feedback,” Liam says. “I am grateful to all the people that have pitched in and adopted drains. I hope that people will keep spreading the word and that the benefits will continue in my town and in other towns as well.”
Indeed, Liam says he has been contacted by people from other areas, asking him about the project and how it has worked out so far.
“It is rewarding to know that the work I did to educate the public about the importance of keeping storm drains clean is spreading to other towns,” he says. “The more people learn about this topic — even if they don’t officially adopt a drain — the better.
“It makes me feel very proud to have played a part in raising awareness about such an important issue.”