How you can help keep Lake Champlain clean:


Do you live in Burlington, Colchester, Essex Town, Essex Junction, or Milton? Rethink Runoff has partnered with Hamline University to launch Adopt-a-Drain.

You can adopt a storm drain in your neighborhood and help keep pollutants and other materials out of our storm drain systems.

Adopt-a-Drain is a program where residents can adopt a storm drain in their neighborhood and keep it clear of leaves, trash, and other debris to reduce water pollution.


pounds of debris removed from storm drains


drains adopted

How to Adopt-a-Drain

  1. Sign up
    Sign up online to adopt a drain in your neighborhood.
  2. Keep your drain clear
    Sweep leaves, trash and other debris off the drain surface year round.
  3. Track your impact
    Keep an estimated total of the debris you collect and enter it into your online account so we can gauge the cumulative results of our work.
  4. Lead by example
    Let friends and neighbors know about your commitment and, if they ask, tell them about small things they can do at home to prevent water pollution.

Drain clearing tips

  • You might want these tools for cleaning your drain: a broom, a rake, a trash grabber, gloves, an orange cone and/or safety vest, a snow shovel or dustpan, and a pail or yard waste bag. (A rolling pail could be deluxe if you have one.)
  • Clean only the surface of the storm drain grate and the area around it. Never remove the grate or otherwise attempt to clean inside the catch basin. If the drain seems to be plugged or have any problem, contact city staff and they will send workers to address the issue.
  • There could be something sharp or otherwise harmful near the drain, so wear gloves to protect your hands and be careful when picking up leaves and trash. You might want to use a trash grabber to collect debris. Consider wearing bright or reflective clothing when you are clearing the storm drain to make sure you are visible to cars. Do not stand or crouch on busy streets.
  • It’s best to adopt drains on local residential streets. If you do adopt a drain on a street with lots of traffic, please stick to clearing trash and debris from the sidewalk and let city staff take care of the street and the surface of the storm drain.
  • While the program asks you to adopt a drain, clearing debris from streets and sidewalks is helpful since anything on pavement can wash into storm drains when it rains.
  • To dispose of waste, separate it into three categories and place it in the appropriate receptacle: trash, recyclables (glass and plastic bottles, cans) and compostables (leaves, grass clippings, sticks, and sediment). Sediment collected in the spring is not compostable, as it contains chemical residue from deicers used over the winter. Put it in the trash. If there is a lot of spring sediment near your drain, let city street sweepers take care of it. If there is A LOT of sediment near your drain, notify city staff, as this may be an indicator of a bigger problem.
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