PODCASTEnvironmentally Speaking EP 31: Plogging & MS4 Permit

April 21, 20220


The month of April has been designated as Earth Month and we start the show off by sharing an article we recently have seen about an activity that people are taking part in called… Plogging. Plogging started in Sweden in 2016. Plogging is a combination of jogging while picking up trash. So next time you are out on your daily jog, pick up some trash and join the “plogging” movement. We also cover Stormwater Management. We spoke about this a bit in a previous episode, however, lately we have noticed that the street sweepers are out in most towns in and around our area so they might have some deadline or some state requirement that must be met called an MS4 Permit. So why is this important? It’s a permit that every municipality has to comply with. It’s a permit that exists as a result of something called a federal Clean Water Act. In Rhode Island, there is a Rhode Island counterpart to that federal act, which allows the state of Rhode Island to be responsible for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act at the state level. What does that have to do with the street sweeping? And does that actually have an environmental impact? Take a listen and find out.

Transcript: Plogging & MS4 Permit

CLARICE:  All righty.  Hello, everybody.  Welcome to this week’s episode of Environmentally Speaking.MARISA:  Hey, Clarice.  I’m Marisa Desautel in case you didn’t know.  I’m an environmental attorney with a few decades of environmental experience.CLARICE:  Well, it’s so nice to meet you.  I’m Clarice.  I just hang out and ask you random questions.

MARISA:  And drink coffee.

CLARICE:  All the time.  All right.  So you have a couple of topics for today.

MARISA:  I do.  As some of you might know, April 22nd is Earth Day and the month of April has been designated as earth month by a few environmental groups, so I’m jumping on that bandwagon.  And I like this, an article that I just read in a publication called the Aquidneck Island Living magazine.  It is an article about earth week on Aquidneck Island.  We’re physically located in Newport, so the Aquidneck Island factor might not be applicable to folks that aren’t living here, but it’s a beautiful time of year to come to Aquidneck Island and it’s not too crowded.  So I thought I would share a couple of events that are going on if folks are interested in celebrating earth month.

CLARICE:  Oh, I like this.

MARISA:  I do, too.  The article highlights an organization called the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District.  I’ve never heard of this group, but they seem to line up – their principals like up with mine.  The ERICD is a group that works all year long on protecting the environment.  They partner with farmers to introduce conservation practices.  They advocate for green infrastructure and educate students about sustainable agriculture.  For the third year – this is the part that I thought the most interesting – ERICD will be undertaking an activity called plogging, p-l-o-g-g-i-n-g.

CLARICE:  Well, that doesn’t sound good.  Plogging?

MARISA:  Yes.  Plogging.  Started in Sweden in 2016.  Plogging is a combination of jogging while picking up trash.  Isn’t that great?

CLARICE:  I love this solely because I am not a runner and it gives me a chance to take several breaks and just say, oh, no, I’m just looking for trash.

[0:03:05] MARISA:  I’m plogging.  You can’t judge me.

CLARICE:  I’m plogging.  We’re good.

MARISA:  It also reminded me of Ron Burgundy.


MARISA:  So entertaining all around.  ERICD is advocating for plogging in Rhode Island to help save the state’s watershed.  An in-person plog is planned on April 16th and a virtual plogging event starts April 22nd and ends April 25th which coincidentally is also World Plogging Day.

CLARICE:  How fortuitous.  Virtually plog.

MARISA:  Yeah.  You can plog from April 22nd to the 25th virtually.  You can plog every day, but if you want to get in on the World Plogging Day action April 25th is going to be your day.  So ERICD is also hosting several events that are going to occur either in Middletown, Bristol, Portsmouth, and I think Newport.  You can check out these events on their website which I don’t have conveniently in front of me, but if you Google Eastern Road Island Conservation District it will come up.  Yeah.  They’ve got a bunch of good events here that if you’re at all environmentally minded you might be interested in.

CLARICE:  And if you’re not and you are a runner, make yourself environmental.

MARISA:  Yeah.  Plog.

CLARICE:  It’s easy.

MARISA:  Try it out.

CLARICE:  Yeah.  And I looked up their website.  It is EasternRIConservation.org.

MARISA:  Oh, great.

CLARICE:  If you Google their name, they’re the first ones that come up.

MARISA:  Great.  So besides that exciting news, we had – or I had thought it would be appropriate to talk about stormwater management because on my drive, I think it was, yesterday or maybe the day before I saw municipal street sweeping equipment in Portsmouth and Tiverton and Middletown which tells me that there must be some state deadline or state requirement that municipalities comply with something called an MS4 permit.  I think we’ve talked about this topic previously, so forgive us for being repetitive here, but it’s important and I thought a good opportunity.  If folks are seeing these street sweeping machines, instead of getting aggravated because they make you a little late to wherever you’re going maybe –

[0:05:59] CLARICE:  Very true.

MARISA:  — knowing more about it might add to your level of relaxation and patience.

CLARICE:  I like this.  So we’ve definitely talked about stormwater before, but I don’t think we’ve talked about the – this permit that you talked about.

MARISA:  Okay.

CLARICE:  What is that?

MARISA:  It’s a permit that every municipality has to comply with.  It’s a permit that exists as a result of something called the Federal Clean Water Act.  In Rhode Island there is a Rhode Island counterpart to that federal act which allows the state of Rhode Island to be responsible for compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act at the state level.

CLARICE:  Okay.  That makes sense.  And what does that have to do with the street sweeping?  Does that actually have an environmental impact?

MARISA:  Yes.  That’s why they’re doing it.

CLARICE:  I always thought it was aesthetic.


CLARICE:  Tell me everything.

MARISA:  Okay.  So you know when you are driving along you see curb cuts on the side of the road?  A curb cut is where the concrete that makes up either the sidewalk or the side of the road has a cutout and it’s usually for a catch basin or a storm drain.


MARISA:  When streets collect stormwater that water has to go somewhere if it can’t infiltrate on the land.  And since we love to pave everything as humans, we developed this network of storm drains where excess stormwater makes its way to the low point that the storm drain is located in and then flows through that curb cut into an underground network of pipes and channels and infrastructure that eventually flows out to either the ocean or a treatment plant depending on which town you’re in.

CLARICE:  So how does the street sweep affect the curb cuts?  Does it just push everything in?  Is it sweeping the water in?

MARISA:  If you can imagine – well, you don’t have to imagine.  If you’ve ever looked around at how much trash, debris, sand, salt from snowstorm application exists in the springtime, you might have an idea that that stuff collects.  It’s got to go somewhere.


MARISA:  And people aren’t jogging and picking up trash every day.

CLARICE:  We need more ploggers.

MARISA:  All of that trash and debris is going to make its way into the storm drain, so the street sweepers are meant to, in the spring, collect the debris and salt and sand that has accumulated over the winter and get it out of the street so that it doesn’t make its way into the storm drain.  And that’s important because a lot of our drinking water supply is also impacted by stuff that makes its way into the storm water system.  So the street sweeping is meant to protect both water bodies in Rhode Island and drinking water sources.

[0:09:31] CLARICE:  I didn’t know it was connected to drinking water.

MARISA:  Yeah.  It can be.  Again, every –


MARISA:  — [inaudible] in town is different.

CLARICE:  All right.  I kind of – I can start to see why we need to be a little bit more patient.

MARISA:  Yeah.  Right.

CLARICE:  If we like our drinking water, maybe don’t tailgate the guy who’s just trying to clean up.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  And I think I’m saying that more for me than anybody else.

MARISA:  Right.  No.  It is aggravating.  Even I started to get like annoyed.  I’m thinking, why are they doing this at this time.  Don’t they understand that people have to get to work.  So, I mean, sure it’s aggravating, but it’s also for a good cause, so that calmed me down a little.

CLARICE:  It’s going to help us in the end.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  Cool.  Well, I’ve never thought of that, but look at that.  That was a positive thing for today.

MARISA:  This makes me very uncomfortable.

CLARICE:  All right.  Back to plogging then.  Seems to be your comfortable.  All right, everybody.  So don’t forget, check out the EasternRIConservation.org  to learn about plogging and their other activities.  And let us know on social media, what are you guys doing for earth month?  Do you go and plant a tree?  Do you make a vow to recycle more?  Do you forget every month and this is the year you’re actually going to do something?  Let us know what your thoughts are.  Share it with the group and we can pass on those ideas.  You can reach out to us at Help@DesautelESQ.com.  We are DesautelESQ on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and we want to hear from you guys.

MARISA:  Yeah.

CLARICE:  Have a great rest of your week.

MARISA:  We do.  See ya.

MALE:  Thank you for listening to this episode of Environmentally Speaking.  If you’re in need of an environmental attorney, we are here to help.  Call us at 401-477-0023, or visit our website at www.DesautelLaw.com.  That’s www.DesautelLaw.com.

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