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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

County gets 5k grant to clean up cigarette butts

Cigarette butts sit in a puddle on Sprague Avenue, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. The Spokane County Eco-Team got a $5,000 grant to reduce cigarette litter in parts of downtown and the County Courthouse Campus. (Liz Kishimoto / The Spokesman-Review)

Five grand could buy 537 packs of cigarettes in Washington state.

Instead, it’ll go to cleaning up the wayward butts of litterbug smokers.

Spokane County won a $5,000 award this week to combat cigarette litter around the county courthouse and various areas in downtown Spokane where people are more likely to congregate.

The campaign’s main focus won’t simply be the litter around sidewalks, but the continued life of a cigarette butt that washes into the gutter.

“We just want people to dispose of them responsibly. It’s litter that is very easy to get into the stormwater system. Those toxins get into the water,” said Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, a spokeswoman for the county. “Throw them away.”

The “eco-team” that won the grant from the nonprofit Keep America Beautiful will launch a small-scale cigarette litter prevention program targeting pedestrians and establish an education and outreach program at public events.

New signage and ash receptacles will be put in place, and the team hopes to educate smokers that cigarettes are both a form of litter and a water pollutant.

“It’s easy to forget that street litter, especially cigarette butts, can freely pass through storm drains and end up either at the water treatment plants or directly into the river, causing major water pollution issues,” said Spokane County Water Resource Specialist Casi Harvey in a statement.

Harvey wrote the grant application.

So think of the river next time you buy a $9.30 pack of smokes.

The Spokane team is one of 42 organizations to receive grant funding through the 2018 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is supported by funding from Philip Morris USA, an Altria company; RAI Services Co.; and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co.