Water Garden to Filter Runoff

June 2, 2004
Thousands of native plants will be used to filter runoff contaminants in Valparaiso.

The Valparaiso Department of Water Works, Ind., joined with JF New, Indianapolis – a nationally recognized company that provides engineering and biological expertise for natural treatment of wastewater – to create a rain garden to filter damaging road salts, fertilizers and pesticides that leach into drinking water each time it rains.

Daryl Brown, the wellhead protection administrator for the water department, estimated the water that runs off the parking lot on Billings Street in Valparaiso eventually makes its way down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, a dozen city employees put in thousands of native plants next to the water works building on Billings Street. The roots of the plants can grow from 5 to 15 feet underground and filter out the contaminants from the nearby parking lot, according to The Times.

The water works rain garden is made up of three tiers, the lowest of which might have from 6 to 12 inches of water on its surface. At the two higher levels are plants with varying degrees of moisture tolerance.

After the rain garden starts its work over the next few years, the parking lot no longer will contribute to the huge dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi.

Brian Neilson, JF New project engineer said that Mississippi's dead zone is the result of pollutants that make their way into the groundwater of thousands of upstream communities. Nelson added that a rain garden can be very effective in newly developed communities because the use of infiltration plants makes it possible to set aside a small area for handling stormwater

Along with an aesthetic improvement of the area, the community will benefit through the Groundwater Guardian program, sponsored by the Groundwater Foundation of Lincoln, Neb. The program supports, recognizes and connects communities that take proactive steps to protect groundwater. In February, Valparaiso signed up as a contender for the foundation's designation as a Groundwater Guardian.

Brown hopes the rain garden near the water company office will provide a living educational facility for students and other groups interested in learning more about the system.

Source: The Times