Storm Drain Stenciling

Non-point source pollutants enter the streams through runoff from rain. Storm drain sewers found along our streets is a direct connection to our local streams. 

These pollutants reflect the way we live, follow the link to read a short list of common pollutant contributions from our daily practices [practices should be hyperlinked “Common Nonpoint Pollution[Source: EPA Nonpoint Source Pollution] Sources” from Resources section] and can be eliminated with your help.  It’s easy!

"Native Nashvillian at Risk"

-from the Nashville Zoo newsletter, Winter 2010

The natural beauty of Tennessee draws millions each year to its rivers, streams, mountains and hillsides. Our scenic state is world-renowned for its biological diversity. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone holds as many as 100,000 different species in its streams and forests.

Despite this strong ecological reputation, many of Tennessee’s natural treasures are falling into ruin, including the Mill Creek Watershed. Located in one of the most rapidly developing areas of Middle Tennessee, this 108-square-mile network of streams, creeks and tributaries drains southeastern Davidson County and northeastern Williamson County into the Cumberland River. Of Mill Creek’s 20 total miles, more than 16 are listed as “impaired” by the state. Development, siltation, pollution and nutrient, herbicide and pesticide run-off are all contributing factors.

This vulnerable watershed is the sole habitat of one very tiny Nashville native, the Nashville Crayfish. Despite being listed as federally endangered in 1986, the Nashville Crayfish’s habitat is still threatened by poor development decisions.

“The Mill Creek Watershed can be redeveloped using green practices that would improve the creek,” said Dale McGinnity, Nashville Zoo’s Ectotherm Curator. “Creating rain gardens, buffer zones and greenways are just a few of these practices that improve water quality and reduce flooding, which is good for both the crayfish and the community. Mill Creek is still beautiful. It can be developed into a great recreation area for people, and it is the only habitat for the Nashville Crayfish.”

Because of Mill Creek’s and the crayfish’s vulnerability, Nashville Zoo staff initiated the Nashville Crayfish Project in collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). One of the project’s main focuses on involving our community in Mill Creek’s revitalization, simultaneously improving and protecting crayfish habitat.

Project leaders are organizing the Mill Creek Watershed Association for individuals interested in preserving the area. Restoration efforts include community-driven cleanups of Mill Creek and stenciling “No Dumping” signs on the more than 8,000 storm drains in the watershed. Special thanks to Lowe’s Home Improvement for providing a generous donation that makes the storm drain stenciling project possible.

“Involving our community in saving Mill Creek is essential,” said McGinnity. “If we don’t care about our rivers and streams, they will continue to degrade, and we will lose one of Tennessee’s most valuable and biologically-diverse resources.”  McGinnity and other project leaders are gathering valuable species and habitat data through fieldwork in the watershed. Determining long-term population trends and monitoring water quality are fundamental first steps in creating a successful conservation program for the crayfish.

Nashville Zoo is also developing a breeding program for the crayfish. The Zoo hopes to have the program established and Nashville Crayfish on display in the Unseen New World next year. In addition, TWRA is hosting a webpage for the Mill Creek Watershed Group that should be up and running in several months.