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Company develops high-tech solution to prevent major waterways from getting polluted: 'It's way easier'

The experts believe their filter technology can help catch a lot of trash before it hits the water.

The experts believe their filter technology can help catch a lot of trash before it hits the water.

Photo Credit: SOP Technologies

Storm drains can be a causeway of disaster for our oceans and bays, because trash and organic debris can travel through the pipelines, polluting the waterways on the other side. 

Fortunately, a program in Florida could serve as a model for other communities in cleaning up the drains and preventing harmful pollution from soiling the environment. 

The solution is from Miami-based Stop Ocean Pollution Technologies, or SOP. They were selected by the North Bay Village to install up to 50 unique drain filters that utilize an "upper flow of water through the screen, which will allow it to continue to flow even as debris is collected," according to a report from NBC6 South Florida, the network's local affiliate. Keeping the drains clear can also prevent flooding. 

The project received $150,000 in state appropriations to install customizable screens. 

"It's very expensive to clean out stormwater pipes, because you have to have a truck with a vacuum on it," SOP CEO Emilio Lopez said in the NBC6 story. The screens can also help reduce the maintenance burden. 

SOP's website has several video clips and graphics demonstrating how the grates, screens, and baskets can let water through while picking out plastic, leaves, and other debris. A QR code displayed next to each drain allows community members to communicate with the local public works team to quickly address clogs or maintenance needs. 

Plastic waste alone is a huge problem. Ocean Conservancy estimates that about 303 million tons of it is produced each year, with nearly 9 million tons going into the ocean. Once there, it causes all sorts of problems, while taking up to 500 years to decompose.

In Florida, North Bay Village's program is intended to help clean up Biscayne Bay, a resource the local chamber of commerce notes is being "killed" by pollution. The state has even invested a couple million dollars to help the village save the bay. 

Excess organic debris can lead to too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the water, leading to unhealthy algae blooms that kill fish, Lopez told NBC6. 

Reducing plastic waste might be among the best long-term solutions to keeping storm drains clear. It's an undertaking that can also result in substantial savings in your budget. Better yet, you don't have to live in Florida to make an impact. 

For example, you can get a reusable water bottle and food containers for about $55. But you can save about $285 a year in bottled water and sandwich bags by ditching the throwaway products. 

What's more, scientists are concerned about the health impact of microplastics inside our bodies. Even replacing half of your plastic use with reusable options can prevent 50 pounds of trash from ending up in places like Biscayne Bay and potentially human blood.  

The experts at SOP feel that their street filters can help catch a lot of trash before it hits the water. 

"By doing this, keeping the debris closer to the street, it's way easier for public works to actually collect the debris," Lopez said to NBC6. 

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