AUBURN — The Androscoggin Valley Stormwater Working Group (Lewiston, Auburn, Lisbon and Sabattus), in association with Androscoggin Valley Soil and Water Conservation District, are working together with local volunteers for cleaner and safer waters.

Volunteers will gather at Festival Plaza at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 8, and will also meet in Lisbon and Sabattus for a brief clean water and municipal stormwater drainage system discussion. The volunteers will then split up to conduct street stenciling in multiple neighborhoods in the respective municipalities.

The stencils will mark the streets near municipal drainage inlets (aka catch basins). Stormwater is precipitation that doesn’t soak into the ground. Rain that flows from rooftops to lawns, across driveways and into sidewalks and roads is collected by these storm drains and discharged, untreated, into local bodies of water. Along the way, stormwater collects pesticides and fertilizers, bacteria from pet waste, oil and petroleum, sediment, trash and cigarette butts.

The stenciling event is an effort to help educate the public of the process and to remind them not to dump down the drain. Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) estimates that 40 to 70% of rain and snow that hits the ground leaves the average residential lot as stormwater runoff.

Additionally, the illegal dumping of waste or trash into the drainage system can create more pollution and clog drainage systems, creating backups and nuisance flooding, and requires expensive cleaning operations. Public engagement in pollution prevention, such as environmentally sensitive lawn care, can greatly assist municipalities in these costly clean-ups which fall on taxpayers.

Residents can make a difference by following these five steps on their properties:

Build Healthy Soil: By using organic material and mulches, soil will increase its water retention and will minimize stormwater runoff.

Mow Better: Taller grass helps maintain healthy soil, which absorbs more water, resulting in less polluted runoff from lawns. Leave lawn clippings for natural fertilizer.

Practice Smart Watering: Plan your plant/lawn watering around rain events and use automated systems to reduce the amount of property runoff. Give plants just what they need but not too much.

Think Twice Before Using Fertilizers and Pesticides: Use phosphorus-free or slow-release fertilizers. Phosphorus and pesticides can cumulatively contaminate water bodies when they drain into them.

Practice Yardscaping: Use native plants and group plants together that need similar amounts of water.

To find out ways to help prevent pollution, check out www.yardscaping.org.

Over the last 15 years, MDEP has regulated stormwater discharges under the Federal Clean Water Act. The General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater from Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, commonly known as the MS4 permit, obligates the Androscoggin Valley Stormwater Working Group, which includes the municipalities of Lewiston, Auburn, Lisbon and Sabattus, to develop a stormwater management program and implement a number of pollution control measures.

Thirty communities in Maine must comply with these regulations, and recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and MDEP audits in local communities will likely require additional clean water efforts and expenditures for communities.

Two of the permit’s control measures requires public education on stormwater impacts and public participation in reduction efforts. The June 8 stenciling project is part of the program. To learn more about the MDEP stormwater program, go to http://www.maine.gov/dep/land/stormwater/index.html.