CHILLUM – Prince George’s County is getting its stormwater management bucket list accomplished with a little help from its friends at the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). During the past several months the Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District in coordination with the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DoE) and Prince George’s County Public […]
CHILLUM – Prince George’s County is getting its stormwater management bucket list accomplished with a little help from its friends at the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps).
During the past several months the Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District in coordination with the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment (DoE) and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), teamed up to complete multiple stormwater management projects at Ridgecrest Elementary and César Chávez Dual Spanish Immersion.
The project construction cost $298,840 and was cost-shared using 75 percent funding from the Corps and 25 percent funding from Prince George’s County.
“Thanks to our partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Prince George’s County has made tremendous progress in capturing and retaining stormwater runoff before it enters our local waterways,” said DoE Director Adam Ortiz. “This collaboration will lead to greater improvement in our overall water quality and provide our citizens and residents with a clean and green environment.”
At the two schools, the Corps of Engineers altered two preexisting bio-retention ponds to a different and more effective stormwater solution: submerged gravel wetlands. These wetlands include layers of gravel that effectively filter the stormwater into the ground to prevent large quantities of toxins from entering the waterways. The wetlands also feature native plants.
These wetlands are used to decrease and eliminate pollutants and “excess nutrients,” such as nitrates, from entering into the nearby Sligo Creek, which is a subwatershed of the Chesapeake Bay.
Sligo Creek is one of the most heavily-urbanized subwatersheds within the Anacostia River watershed.
“In the past, after storms, there was nowhere for runoff from parking lots, gutters, roads and roofs to go; this created localized flooding and standing water, which would eventually get into the streams and pollute the river,” said Carol Ohl, Corps, Baltimore District, project design manager. “The submerged gravel wetlands allow for the water to be naturally filtered through the soil, rocks and wetland plants.”
In addition to the converted bio-retention ponds, large planters were also constructed at César Chávez to capture extra stormwater runoff from the building. The bulk of the construction at the two schools began in late June 2016, was completed prior to the new school year, and completely wrapped up this fall.
The DoE said the new wetlands should alleviate drainage issues on the school grounds, and, with the elimination of the standing water at the bio-retention ponds, should help reduce potential mosquito-breeding areas. The projects should also help reduce stormwater runoff that erodes natural stream banks and causes sediment and attached nutrients to flow into the Anacostia watershed and Chesapeake Bay.
The school system will be responsible for the upkeep of the projects and PGCPS spokesperson Natifia Mullings said the schools will continue their stormwater practices that began well before the retrofits started.
“Ridgecrest has a long standing relationship with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Department of Environmental Programs, Water Resources. Though the relationship precedes the stormwater project, our fifth grade students are engaged in various opportunities that allow them to learn about environmental issues, including stormwater management,” she said.
The students at Ridgecrest participate annually in environmental programs involving the creek, Mullings said.
“One year the students picked up trash that would have otherwise travelled to the creek. They presented to the community what they found in the drains and how they could work together to address the issues,” she said. “Additional trash cans were placed throughout the community as a result.”
César Chávez also engages its students in local environmental issues and has a beautification club that uses rain barrels to collect water for use in their vegetable garden.