Oakland County Spreads Awareness Around Stormwater

Mandy Chu wins the Preserve MI Waters: Stormwater Manhole Cover Art Contest

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash awarded Troy Athens High School senior Mandy Chu with the first-place prize for the Preserve MI Waters: Stormwater Manhole Cover Art Contest.

Mandy received the award, which included a $1,000 scholarship and a small model of her art, at the Oakland County Board of Commissioners meeting on April 14. Her design was selected from 74 entries, and will be cast onto 50 storm drain manhole covers, which will start appearing across Oakland County this summer.

Mandy took to the podium to express her thanks and said she’s excited to be a part of a contest that highlights Oakland County’s beautiful wildlife and waters. She said she’s hopeful it will highlight the importance of protecting these natural resources as well.

The $1,000 scholarship was provided by Pure Oakland Water, a Michigan not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting Oakland County and regional water resources through public education.

“One of our missions for this contest is to help our communities understand that the water going into our storm drains travels directly to our freshwater resources, without treatment, making it vitally important that we keep our drains free of pollutants and debris.”

-Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash

Contest Background

Oakland County is taking huge steps to improve drain and sewer infrastructure. The Water Resources Commissioner’s office decided to create an opportunity for public education that would use art and the community to bring awareness to the importance of managing stormwater and keeping pollution out of our storm drains in order to protect wildlife and promote recreational activities.

The contest came to life at a Drain Board meeting late last year by Oakland County Commissioners David Woodward and Gwen Markham.

“As we take steps to improve drain and sewer infrastructure across Oakland County, what a unique opportunity to engage our creative community to design new storm drain covers to be used across the county. The participants will see art and function unite for the benefit of all of us for years to come.”

-Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Woodward

The contest was open to high school and college students who live or attend school in Oakland County. After the entry window closed, the review process began, and a panel of judges were called together to vote on their favorite entries. The panel was able to narrow the contest down to just three entries and Commissioner Nash chose the one he felt embodied the theme of the contest the most.

“This contest provides an opportunity to show the public something some photographers have known for decades – manhole covers can be cool. As we maintain our hundreds of miles of drains, these new covers will be a great way to remind users to keep our water clean, infuse art into our communities and add a little personality to our region.

-Oakland County Commissioner Gwen Markham

To view the contest gallery, which includes all entries received, click here.

Oakland County Stormwater Management Program

The Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Environmental Team coordinates, implements and manages programs to protect and restore Oakland County’s rivers, lakes and streams. The WRC is responsible for more than 500 miles of drainage systems that are called County Drains.

The WRC has completed several projects to limit pollution to our rivers, lakes and streams, including construction of combined sewer overflow facilities. The largest remaining source of pollution to our rivers, lakes and streams is nonpoint source pollution, which is caused by rainfall or snowmelt picking up pollutants from our yards, driveways and sidewalks and depositing them into lakes, rivers and streams.

Many communities in Michigan, including Oakland County, are required to have a stormwater permit from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. This requirement is part of the Federal Clean Water Act and is referred to as the Phase II stormwater permit.

The WRC’s Environmental Team coordinates Phase II compliance activities for Oakland County as part of the Oakland County Stormwater Committee. Other Oakland County departments who have responsibility for Phase II activities include Facilities Management, Health Division, Parks and Recreation, Planning and Economic Development Services, and Road Commission for Oakland County.

Environmental Impact

Oakland County is committed to doing our part to ensure a safe, healthy, and clean environment for residents, businesses, and visitors to enjoy for generations to come. Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter appointed the county’s first Environmental Sustainability Officer, Erin Quetell, in September 2021.

The county’s five-year roadmap includes a goal to protect the environment, reduce carbon pollution, keep our water and lakes safe, and conserve natural resources.

Visit the WRC’s website for tools to help reduce your environmental footprint, and check out our list of Earth Day observances to participate in an event near you.

For more information on the Water Resource Commissioner’s Environmental Team and what they can do for you, or to provide input on the County’s Stormwater Management Program, please email envreq@oakgov.com.

To learn more about the Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner, follow along on their Facebook page.


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