Oct 06, 2010

Water Quality Professionals Host "Bioswales in the Bayou" Community Service Project

Project includes construction of a bioswale in Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans

The Water Environment Federation (WEF), in coordination with Global Green and Groundwork New Orleans, has organized a community service project in conjunction with WEFTEC.10, the world’s largest annual water quality conference and exhibition. Managed by WEF’s Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC), “Bioswales in the Bayou” included the construction of a bioswale in the Lower Ninth Ward of the city. Representatives from WEF and local dignitaries, including Charles E. Allen III, director of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s Office of Environmental Affairs, were expected to take part during the opening ceremony and groundbreaking on Oct. 2.

The Lower Ninth Ward was one of the most heavily damaged areas from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and was selected by WEF and the SYPC because of its particular vulnerability to severe wet weather occurrences. The construction of a bioswale will help limit overland flooding by retaining storm water runoff while removing silt and pollution. To help promote environmental stewardship and local involvement, event organizers also hosted a special water carnival for residents.

Community organizations, state agencies, university groups and WEF entities provided hands-on activities and information to the community regarding sustainable neighborhoods, water quality, wastewater treatment and other environmental issues that impact the community and the country. Local schools, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and other after school programs also were invited. Students were given “passports” to travel around to each booth and learn about the water and environment in their community. Several hundred grade school students and their families were expected to attend.

In 2005 when the city’s levees broke under pressure from Hurricane Katrina-generated storm surges, the entire Lower Ninth Ward experienced catastrophic flooding and widespread devastation. Now, five years later, much of the neighborhood remains unchanged but should be able to gradually recover through ongoing collaborative efforts and increased community involvement.

The “Bioswales in the Bayou” project supports grassroots solutions on a local level, and also promotes WEF’s overall mission to preserve and enhance the
global water environment. In 2008, WEF’s SYPC began organizing community service projects as part of WEFTEC in order to promote environmental stewardship and to leave a positive imprint on the conference’s host location.