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Published: Wednesday, 5/27/2009

Sylvania scout takes on trash

The most visible element of Chris Kozlowski s effort will be laminated decals on catch basins in his Sylvania neighborhood. The most visible element of Chris Kozlowski s effort will be laminated decals on catch basins in his Sylvania neighborhood.

Having watched city crews scooping trash, yard waste, and other gunk from his Sylvania neighborhood's storm drains too many times to count over the years, Chris Kozlowski is doing something about it.

As a service project in pursuit of his Eagle rank with Boy Scouts of America Troop 154, the 17-year-old Sylvania Southview High School junior is mounting an educational campaign to try to stem the pollution that sometimes makes its way to local rivers and streams, and even Lake Erie.

The most visible element of this effort will be placing laminated decals on scores of catch basins in his southwest Sylvania neighborhood alerting passers-by of the hazard that litter and pollution pose to the environment. He also plans to distribute leaflets to residences throughout the neighborhood.

"Storm-drain systems are designed as a ditch, not a street trash can," Chris wrote in a sample leaflet. "[They are] supposed to prevent flooding after rainstorms by diverting water to the waterways or rivers. When people misuse storm drains by throwing trash or leaves into them, water becomes backed up; it may cause flooding in nearby houses."

And chemical wastes can end up coming back into residents' homes in the local water supply from the lake, he warned.

Chris said it was "a very nice coincidence" that the city was interested in providing the catch-basin decals he plans to apply this Saturday and next, depending on the weather and the assistance of fellow Boy Scouts, in Sylvania's Lincoln Woods neighborhood. He asked that people who live in that neighborhood avoid parking close to storm drains on those days.

"I was planning to make stencils and paint" the pollution warnings, he said.

Jeff Ballmer, Sylvania's service director, said the city has stencil-painted storm drains and the markings simply don't last very long.

"It looks OK for about a year," but after that dust kicked up by traffic and weather erode the paint, he said.

Several years ago, Mr. Ballmer said, the city bought between 500 and 1,000 of the plastic decals, which are applied with heavy-duty glue, but since then has never mounted any concerted effort to apply them.

"We had hoped a science class from junior high school, or some other group like that, would take it on and do a neighborhood to get the ball rolling," Mr. Ballmer said. "Chris just happened to be the first to come around. We think it's a pretty cool little project - a public service for the city and to get the word out."

An anti-pollution message is embossed on new catch basins when the city installs them, he said, "but where we're not replacing the catch basins, these decals will work just fine."

Chris said he hopes one day to become either a science or math teacher or a veterinarian.

"I do love nature, that's why I'm a Scout," he said.

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