Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Environmental Value of Rain Gardens

Bio-restoration is a newer environmental concept for managing storm water. Stormwater gardens are of environmental value because they have the capacity to reduce combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into local rivers and streams. In Springfield, OH this includes Buck Creek and other areas like it. It is proven stormwater gardens utilize landscape areas because they are designed to hold rain water that has “run off” the surrounding landscape of lawns, roads, and rooftops.  

How it works? Stormwater is held in a basin a while and slowly released into a nearby body of water. In this way, stormwater detention basins reduce how fast runoff enters our natural waterways. This protects areas downstream from flooding and erosion.

In addition, stormwater gardens are proven to have environmental value because they eliminate sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) in a typical year; eliminate sewage backups into basements caused by MSD's public sewer system; and reduce sewage debris and sewage odors in local waterways. Gardens also decrease human exposure to pathogens and pollutants, such as E. Coli bacteria. The primary advantages over the standard garden/ basin approach is being able to maintain the pre-development site hydrology and remove pollutants from the storm water prior to discharging from the site.

From an environmental standpoint rain gardens help keep water clean by filtering stormwater runoff before it enters local waterways. In turn this helps alleviate problems associated with flooding and drainage. Rain gardens can also enhance the beauty of individuals’ yards, vacant lots, abandoned homes and communities. At the same time gardens will be providing habitat and food for wildlife including birds and butterflies while recharging the ground water supply.
A stormwater garden retrofitted
into an established residential area

The Critical Zone:

Geosphere- rain gardens need a high quality of soil in order to form proper stormwater basins. Otherwise poor soil texture will negatively impact the environment because compact soil doesn't allow rain water in, which is a negative quality trait, if storm water gardens require soil to be held and slowly released.

Biosphere- it is important for rain gardens to have chosen native plants for the garden to look beautiful and chose plants that bloom at different times to create a long flowering season. In the biosphere critical zone often times long root structures are not satisfactory because they break up soil pathways for water and soil pass through.
Hydrosphere- plays an important role in determining the quality of water; water allows for environmentalists to find out how compact a type of soil is which is critical for the groundbreaking of rain gardens.  Infiltration tests are then performed this is done by draining 3 different water pits and collecting how much storm water scales up at the rain garden digging location determines how fit the landscape is for beautification.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Social Benefits of Rain Gardens

The social implications of creating rain gardens in Springfield could bring positive change to areas that have been experiencing an economic downturn and do not have the most optimistic view of the community around them. Rain gardens and other green infrastructures serve to both beautify areas by adding signs of life but they also can help to improve storm water and sewage flow. By minimizing overflowing sewers, the rain garden will not only help to improve the property value of homes because they are no longer in areas that have flooding problems but may also help to improve the image that the residents have for of their neighborhood. The vacant lot located off E. Auburn Avenue is located in a residential area that is surrounded by many homes and families. At this point, the lot has a bunch of potential for socially improving the area and also helping to solve some potential economic and environmental issues present in the area.

There are many positive social effects of rain gardens on communities that come from the biology of the gardens. Firstly the rain gardens have higher levels of biodiversity than most urban environments. This is a positive aspect for any home near the rain garden; it would feel more “natural” for residents to see than a grassy lot. These rain gardens are much more appealing to people than grassy lots, which are often the case with unused land in urban areas. Additionally, rain gardens could provide a home for species of plants and animals that people in the cities may consider rather “exotic”. Because of the more natural appearance of rain gardens, there would be a slight incentive for people to live nearby rather than an area without any natural environments, and this leads to higher property values for the areas surrounding a rain garden. This effect can be used to relieve neighborhoods that are in poor condition and attract investors, which would improve the social well-being of the community. Because people appreciate areas with greater biodiversity, a rain garden would be a valuable tool for improving the economic and social state of many communities.

The main function of rain gardens, conserving water in the soil instead of the storm water system, reduces the risk of flooding, which is a great social benefit. Rain gardens are designed to absorb water, unlike the concrete surfaces that prevent normal water infiltration into the soil. The plants that are placed in rain gardens are selected for their ability to draw water into their deeper root systems. By creating an area where water can slowly infiltrate into a soil with a higher water capacity, a significant amount of storm water can be prevented from going into the storm sewer system, which can be prone to cause flooding in the case of an intense rain event.

Preventing flooding by installing rain gardens has obvious social benefits because flooding can cause large amounts of damage and results in injury or death. Floods cause large amounts of damage, can cause loss of home, health issues, and often government intervention. Street and basement flooding are consequences that often affects entire neighborhoods or even cities at once. Not only can rain gardens reduce the strain on sewer systems, they can also reduce the risk of flooding, which has important social implications.

By Stuart Cotner, Melissa Sullivan, and Tori Jennings

Social Implications of Green Infrastructures (Rain Gardens)

By: Melissa, Tori, Stu

The social implications of creating rain gardens in Springfield could bring positive change to areas that have been experiencing an economic downturn and do not have the most optimistic view of the community around them. 

Rain gardens and other green infrastructures serve to both beautify areas by adding signs of life but they also can help to improve storm water and sewage flow. By minimizing overflowing sewers, the rain garden will not only help to improve the property value of homes because they are no longer in areas that have flooding problems but may also help to improve the image that the residents have for of their neighborhood. The vacant lot located off E. Auburn Avenue is located in a residential area that is surrounded by many homes with families.

(A Green Infrastructure. Source: Sierra Club)

Since green designs can help to minimize the need for large storm water drainage tunnels, it minimized the amount of construction that our town will have to experience. In many ways, heavy construction that can affect roadways is a huge social issue and if we can eliminate the need for the concrete tunnels, we will shorten road construction time associated with installing new tunnels for additional combined sewer capacity.

EPA. Green Infrastructures.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

a) Wetlands save places like Springfield a lot of money.  Building just one tunnel can be millions of dollars.  Wetlands also help against flood protection and pollution control.

b) Creating these wetlands gives greater opportunity to surrounding neighborhoods because it could potentially increase the value of many houses.  It also is more pleasing to the eye, rather than just a empty field.  Wetlands also create more opportunity for recreational activity, such as, parks.

c) Wetlands slows down the rain and water flow, that goes into the storm drain.  If all the rain and water flow goes straight to the storm drain, then there will be sewage backup, which is not good for the environment.  Wetlands store the water but also wetlands store important nutrients, giving the soil necessary structure.

Wetlands are connected to the critical zone through climate and human influences. With high precipitation rates becoming a trend in Ohio's climate it is essential to have buffers in order to preserve the storm drain systems from being over used. The wetlands also assist with human influences keeping pollution such as gas an oils from entering the storm drain

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Satellite view of vacant lot in Springfield

Holes that were dug on the vacant lot to test the water infiltration levels.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Infiltration Test at Vacant Lot to Evaluate for Stormwater Detention

Wittenberg student, Melissa Sullivan, pours water into the hole she and Marley Tullis excavated.  The will determine how fast water infiltrates into the soil. From this evaluation, Geology of the Critical Zone students will be able to evaluate the potential for this vacant lot site in Springfield, Ohio to detain stormwater and reduce combined sewage overflow.  Sky Schelle, Springfield Stormwater Coordinator, is in the background.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Wittenberg Explores Soil Sustainability

For the last 2 weeks, my Geology of the Critical Zone class piloted the first NSF funded agricultural sustainability geoscience curriculum as a part  of InTeGrate. InTeGrate strives to create and widely disseminate interdisciplinary, student-centered (non-lecture) curriculum on sustainability.  Two other undergraduate cohorts at Virginia Tech (Dr. Hannah Scherer) and Santa Rosa Junior College (Martha Murphy) have and will pilot the same curriculum.  Our pilot goals are to identify improvements that will make our modules fit well with many institutional types and broadly illustrate the need for soil sustainability.  This week, after exploring soil properties that promote infiltration and reduce erosion,  we took a break and headed to Yellow Springs to visit the Antioch Organic Farm.  My class found that the tilled plot did not form surface aggregates (clumps) while the no-till plot did.  Only the water poured through the no-till soil remained clear and free of eroded soil.  This is not surprising. Globally, tillage contributes to erosion at rates that far exceed the production of soil and this disrupts the natural fertility of soil and ability to sustain our food and fiber resources. No till practices are one way to greatly reduce erosion rates. We are grateful to Marianthe Bickett, our gracious student tour guide at the Antioch Farm.  She showed us permaculture plots, where rotation of crops and animals is practiced, to reduce pests, improve nutrient management.  Food grown in the farm is part of the Antioch student's meal plan.  Thanks Marianthe!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sky Schelle's Visit! By: Ashley, Jordan & Alex

During  the city Stormwater Coordinator, Sky Schelle, visited our class in preparation for our evaluation of a vacant lot for a potential stormwater detention area. We learned that stormwater is a bath for the surface of the earth that flows into our storm system where it is combined with our sewage system (i.e a combined sewer). Depending on the age of the city sanitary waste and stormwater waste are either combined in the same underground pipe, or kept separate. Many older, impoverished areas have combined systems  that contribute storm overflow waste directly into rivers.  This is the case for Springfied, that contributes combined sewage overflow directly into Buck Creek during many storms. Stormwater treatment at plants is extremely expensive for cities to compensate. In Springfield, it might total $150 million to bury tunnels to hold excess water until treatment plants able to handle additional capacity. Fortunately, vacant lots might be a place where stormwater can be detained and landscapes restored.   Water health only improves if we treat water for wastes before it is released into local runoff spots including creaks, ponds, lakes.. One of Sky's purpose as a stormwater coordinator is to consider ways to reduce sewage overflow. One way to reduce the need for buried tunnel capacity, is to is to restore vacant landscapes to detain stormwater runoff. Land might be re-purposed in community beautification project and creating catch basins, such as rain gardens or wetlands, to catch storm water until it has time to be properly treated.

Source: Watershed Coalition River des Peres, Missouri
Caption: This is a depiction of dry vs. wet weather flow of wastewater and the treatment of combined sewer pollution.

Source: Street Stormwater Drainage Project
Caption: This image serves as a improvement method example for cities to implement community beautification projects to provide basins for excess storm water. 

Lumpkin rain garden

* This post has been edited by Dr. Fortner.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stormwater Wetlands! By: Carli, Marley, & Melissa

Stormwater wetlands are created to slow down the movement of water during storms or snow melt and to reduce the flooding in the surrounding areas. These wetlands, although they contain less biodiversity than natural wetlands, are capable of removing pollutants that contaminate the stormwater. Pollutants removed include: heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizer, oils. This is important because it reduces contamination to nearby water. Nutrient removal is especially important because, nutrient pollution in ponds, lakes, or rivers creates excess algae growth.  The  death and decay of excess algae can reduce oxygen and create dad zones where many stream organisms die.

Sources: Department of Ecology State of Washington 


Source: Carli, Marley, Melissa

Captions:  Picture of Experimental Wetland 1 at Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. 


Source: Stefanik, Kay C., Mitsch, William J. Science Direct: Ecological Engineering. Volume 39, February 2012.

This chart shows a few different wetlands and the relationship between their levels of diversity and their productivity. As you can see, the Olentangy River Wetlands are one of the highest functioning wetland habitats that have a high level of diversity and productivity.

Source: Marley, Melissa, Carli Swartz
Caption: View of an wetland outflow at the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Olentangy Experimental Wetland Park Trip

On Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 we visited the Olentangy Experimental Wetland Park, at the Ohio State University Campus.  There we thought more about the function and services of wetlands (their ability to remove sediment and nutrients) and we saw some of the research plots and equipment that have been used at this site for over 2 decades.  This trip gave us a glimpse at the potential for water quality improvement in our own watershed, Buck Creek, with possible urban wetlands in vacant lots.

Experimental plot of 'mini' wetlands that can be used for reproducibility studies

The inflow to the experimental wetlands in the Olentangy River (powered by solar).

Lowhead dam looking down at the flooded woodlands that have been restored.  The dam is below the inflow into the experimental wetland and impairs water quality (traps sediment, lowers oxygen)

Eddy flux tower to monitor greenhouse gas emissions in the experimental wetlands.

This 'dock' is actually the way to measure sediments that accumulation.  

Brave Geology of the Critical Zone students walking out over the narrow walkway.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Forcings of Springfield ohio by; Erin Murray, Ashley Milliner, and Carli Swartz

The forcings around the Springfield area are as follows:

  • Climate
    • Springfield Ohio Cycles through four full seasons and experiences a wide range of temperatures and kinds of precipitation. 
    • As the graphs and data above indicate, these are the average low and high temperatures for each month that springfield experiences. The graph also includes a bar graph of the amount of precipitation that Springfield experiences each month.
  • Human Activity 
    • Human activities influence the landscape in many ways.  Some of these activities include: roads, power transmission lines, pipelines, and power dams.  Temporary landscapes, could be forests, used for harvesting.  Depending on vegetation, this could either attract animals or make them migrate to other areas.  Animals can have an impact on human activities.  
  • Tectonic: 
    • During the Cambrian period (530 million years ago) Ohio was covered in a sea.  Fast-forwarding 100 million years later, Ohio was still covered by a shallow sea, mainly eastern Ohio.  Ohio has remained in the tropical climate; the climate is why sedimentary rocks have formed.  Sedimentary rocks are rocks that have formed from deposition of material, within a body of water.  
    • In the past several years Springfield's tectonic plates have been more active than usual. There were 8 recorded earthquakes in 2010, four in 2009, and five in 2008 were recorded as well. These aftershocks have been very minor earthquakes and have been recorded in the 2-3 range on the seismic scale. The quakes have led our city to be slightly shaken but no real damage has occurred. The city does have some sloped hills that have been made by previous earthquakes happening in this area as well. 

Work Cited: 
  • http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/_live/pages/wpPages/soe_landscape_changes.aspx
  • http://www.usclimatedata.com/climate.php?location=USOH0908
  • http://criticalzonespringfield.blogspot.com/2013/09/tectonic-history-of-ohio.html