If you've attempted to toss a piece of trash down a storm drain in West Hempstead recently, you may have been stopped by Steven Trezza.
No, the 15-year-old West Hempstead High School student is not camping out next to a storm drain, but he has left his mark on hundreds of drains throughout the community, urging residents to stop polluting.
Trezza, is the creator of a community project aimed at helping to prevent pollution of Long Island storm drains. He went around West Hempstead placing a medallion over hundreds of storm drains to remind the entire community of the impacts of pollution.
Trezza, in response to a plea for volunteers from Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, joined the environmental group Operation Splash. Operation Splash is a volunteer organization that brings awareness to rising levels of Long Island water pollution. For 20 years, volunteers with the non-profit group have sailed daily around the South Shore removing garbage from shorelines and waterways.
"I was going to do whatever they wanted me to do," says Trezza."I didn't know how much work it would actually be, but I really did enjoy it."
Through Operation Splash, Trezza learned that most shoreline and waterway pollution consists of trash from storm drains. Since most storm drains are unfiltered, all garbage flows directly to the bays. The accumulation of trash harshly affects the quality of our water, and has altered the Long Island fishing industry. The appearance of Brown Tide, an overgrowth of marine algae, in the 1980s caused a significant drop in bay scallop populations, nearly crashing the Long Island commercial shell-fishing industry.
Trezza, in need of an Eagle Scout community project, decided to attack the root of the problem: Long Islanders themselves. With the support of his family and school, Trezza was eventually able to print 950 medallions with the warning, "No Dumping – Drains to Bay" for placement on top of storm drains around West Hempstead.
Trezza publicized his effort by submitting four essays to a local newspaper.
"I knew if I had just placed the medallions down, people might not understand what they meant," he said. "The articles I wrote helped explain and bring awareness to it."
Trezza recently presented his project at the 2010 Molloy College science fair, further promoting his cause. In honor of his initial inspiration, Trezza plans on inviting Kate Murray to place the last medallion outside his home in West Hempstead.