Murder, She Wrote

Oct. 31, 2017

In North Carolina, stormwater officials are going to extremes to help spread the message about what shouldn’t be dumped down the storm drain. Durham’s pollution prevention coordinator last week tweeted a photo of what looked like, at first glance, quite a lot of blood flowing into an inlet. The scene of a grisly murder? No, the red stuff was actually ketchup. The accompanying message: “Could you help us ketchup with the person(s) responsible for this spill on Chapel Hill St. near the parking deck?” followed by the department’s phone number.

Groan if you will, but stormwater programs have long used clever messages, humor, even puns to get across the stormwater message and fulfill the education and outreach requirements of their NPDES permits. EPA has a toolbox available online that allows programs—some with fewer resources than others to create their own campaigns—to search and borrow from each other.

Programs can choose to make their materials available—print ads, TV and radio spots, logos, slogans, mascots, and so on—and others can adopt and adapt them to their own program needs. There is usually contact information on the site for the program that originated the materials, and the parties can work out the details of a usage agreement. EPA’s toolbox is searchable by location, situation needing to be addressed (Motor oil down the drain? Dog poop? Overfertilizing lawns?), media type, and keyword. The campaigns over the years have included the popular rubber ducks commercial, Chuck the Catfish, Agents Smith and Jones going after polluters, and the botched filming of a romantic scene in “From Here to Eternity” on a trash-strewn beach.

Does your program generate its own education and outreach materials? Have you used EPA’s toolbox to find ideas or existing campaigns, or shared in some other way with other regional stormwater programs? How big of a role does social media play in your efforts to (sorry) ketchup with potential violators?

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.