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2016 Rain Barrel Painting Contest showcases creativity, conservation

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Sat, Apr 30th 2016 10:25 am
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (center, back row) joins the winning teams on stage at the Rain Barrel Painting Contest awards at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Click to enlarge.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz (center, back row) joins the winning teams on stage at the Rain Barrel Painting Contest awards at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Click to enlarge.

Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, partners present fourth annual contest

'Rain Barrels - Every Drop Counts!' contest theme; EC Environmental Management Council also presents Environmental Excellence Awards

The Erie County Department of Environment and Planning, in conjunction with the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Buffalo Inc., the Buffalo Sabres' Green Team, the Western New York Stormwater Coalition, the Erie County Water Quality Committee and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, announced the winning entries in the 2016 Rain Barrel Painting Contest on Friday. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joined Albright-Knox Art Gallery Deputy Director Joe Lin-Hill, Coca-Cola Director of Operations Pasquale "Pat" Greco and representatives from the sponsoring organizations at the gallery to greet the contest participants and announce the winners.

The fourth annual contest included entries from 57 schools and organizations throughout Erie and Niagara counties, an increase of five entries from 2015, with each group painting a retrofitted syrup concentrate barrel provided by Coca-Cola.

The 2016 contest theme was "Rain Barrels - Every Drop Counts!" The event challenged entrants to interpret that theme in a vibrant, eye-catching way.

Each year, the competition challenges entrants to learn more about stormwater pollution prevention and how it keeps pollutants out of local waterways. Each rain barrel can save up to 1,000 gallons of water per year, with over 50,000 gallons of rainwater saved annually from this project alone.

"Rain barrels are an excellent way to prevent stormwater runoff and preserve a precious natural resource for better use; they are easy to put in place; and, as we see, they can be colorful and creative additions to anyone's backyard," Poloncarz said. "As I said in my 'Initiatives for a Smart Economy' address, green infrastructure is critical in preventing pollution and protecting our environment. Residents and businesses alike are realizing this and taking steps to protect our environment and the legacy we leave behind.

"I want to thank the Department of Environment & Planning, Coca-Cola Bottling, the Albright Knox Art Gallery, and all our partners for their work in raising awareness on this issue, especially with the younger generation."

Prizes were awarded to the top entries in the kindergarten-fourth grade category, middle and high school categories. Entries were scored by Erie County staff along with representatives from the Albright Knox, WNY Stormwater Coalition and WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable, Coca Cola, Daemen College, WNY Prism, the Erie County Environmental Management Council and the City of Buffalo, among others.

"The Albright-Knox Art Gallery is delighted to host this event for the county," Lin-Hill said. "We love to see the great work our teachers are doing in the classroom to excite and inspire their students. The marvelous works this event celebrates demonstrate art's ability to engage students in diverse subjects and to enhance the learning process through creative expression."

Coca-Cola focuses on water stewardship through its "Live Positively" campaign, with investments in projects involving watershed protection and conservation taking precedence. By 2020, Coca-Cola intends to attain its goal of replenishing to nature and communities an amount of water equivalent to that used in its finished beverages.

Greco added, "Throughout the Coca-Cola system, we are focused on water stewardship. Repurposing our syrup drums into rain barrels is just one way we can move closer to our water replenishment goal."

Prizes were awarded to the top barrels from Coca-Cola and from the Buffalo Sabres Green team. The top finishers in the 2016 Rain Barrel contest are:

Elementary Grades K-4:

  • Wales Primary School (first-place $500 winner, principal: Kimberly Morrison)
  • Ledgeview Elementary School (second-place $250 winner, teacher: Kathryn Greene)
  • Forest Elementary School (third-place $100 winner, teacher: Beth Aschbacher)
  • Boston Valley Elementary School (honorable mention, teacher: Roseline Dufresne)

Middle School Grades 5-8:

  • Mill Middle School (first-place $500 winner, teacher: Alison Bozek)
  • Amherst Middle School (second-place $250 winner, teacher: Bonnie Majda)
  • Heim Middle School (third-place $100 winner, teacher: Denise Woods)
  • Queen of Heaven School (honorable mention, teacher: Kari Achatz)

High School Grades 9-12:

  • Eden Central School (first-place $500 winner, teacher: Lisa Alessi Nicastro)
  • Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School (second-place $250 winner, teacher: Adam Rivers)
  • Tonawanda H.S. (third-place $100 winner, teacher: Elizabeth Randell)
  • Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart (honorable mention, teacher: Lisa Bonn)

Also joining the event was Anne Bergantz, chair of the Erie County Environmental Management Council, to present the council's second annual Environmental Excellence Awards. These awards recognize exceptional projects carried out by municipal and nonprofit organizations in Erie County that stand to have a significant and lasting positive impact on the natural environment.

2016 recipients include the Village of Depew, which invested in upgrades and systems to monitor its sanitary sewer system so the village could be more proactive, instead of reactive, in eliminating or decreasing overflows from its sanitary sewer system; the Village of Hamburg, which created a tree inventory and tree management plan to help manage its natural resources; the Town of Tonawanda, which has incorporated stormwater management and household composting education into the Ken-Ton Garden Tour; the Tifft Nature Preserve, which has conducted a large-scale effort over the past six years to maintain and protect the tree canopy at the 264-acre refuge; and the Urban Habitat Project, which demonstrates how abandoned industrial land can be returned to an original state using nature's ability to regenerate itself.

Stormwater is rain and snowmelt that flows over hard, impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, streets and parking lots. Along the way, contaminants such as lawn chemicals, automotive fluids, pet waste and litter are collected. These pollutants end up in waterways each time it rains.

A key to preventing stormwater pollution is to utilize green infrastructure solutions. Green infrastructure is a collection of practices that capture runoff and allow it to infiltrate the soil as nature intended. One easy and important green infrastructure practice is storing rainwater for re-use by using a rain barrel. Other methods include planting rain gardens to naturally soak up and filter the runoff, or simply disconnecting gutter downspouts from a home. Using these practices, thousands of gallons of storm runoff can be reduced, keeping pollutants out of rivers, streams and lakes.

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