Storm drain mural highlights art and environmental issues

The large

The sea creature glides over the pavement, its red and pink tentacles splayed out and reaching, one of its eight arms curling over the curb. An octopus on the run in Friday Harbor? Close, but not quite.

Its a new painting of an octopus in the ocean, painted on a storm drain outside of the Whale Museum to remind passerby’s that the water running through there flows out into the ocean.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites storm water drains as non point pollution sources, meaning that they can funnel many types of pollutants from many different places into lakes, oceans and rivers.

“These pollutants can harm fish and wildlife populations, kill native vegetation, foul drinking water supplies and make recreational areas unsafe and unpleasant,” reads the EPA Urban Nonpoint Source Fact Sheet.

The EPA names oil, pesticides, heavy metals, road salt, grease and toxic chemicals as a few pollutants that can be carried into storm water drains by dumping such pollutants nearby or into the drains.

Lindsay Carron, the artist who painted the red cephalopod and accompanying landscape, says drawing peoples eyes and awareness to storm water drains is one of the first steps to preventing pollutants from entering them.

Carron designed the street mural to show an above-water view of the islands, which then transitions into an underwater view of an octopus flowing towards the storm water drain with hues of red, pink and purple on an ocean-blue background.

“It’s to remind people about the life underneath the water,” Carron said. “People have never seen a mural on a storm drain before, and it gets them to thinking ‘why is it there?’ and it leads to the realization that we live next to a very fragile ecosystem.”

Carron has done a similar project in Malibu where she painted four large, detailed underwater scenes on their storm water drains. She says she found people to be very engaged with the topic when they saw her work.

“People get the message,” Carron said. “Hopefully they act on that awareness, but the awareness is the first step.”

Carron says she hopes the storm water drain will help introduce her art to the community, and then she can come back in the fall to potentially do a mural on the building of the Whale Museum. In the mean time she’ll return to Juneau, Alaska, where she is working with a tour company doing painting workshops.

The Whale Museum has applied for a permit to allow Carron to paint a mural on their building, one that would embody the marine ecosystem by incorporating orcas chasing Chinook salmon, foraging fish and a kelp forest. The permit is currently pending review.