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SUITLAND – Representatives from the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering, the Clean Water Partnership (CWP) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation came together on Oct. 29 to unveil a new stormwater management project that will aim to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
The end of Davis Avenue is just a muddy construction site at the moment, but by mid-November, work is expected to be completed on a retention basin that removes phosphorus, nitrogen and sediments along the Oxon Run watershed, which leads to the Potomac River and eventually into the Bay. CWP, the partnership between the Corvias Group and Prince George’s County, will oversee construction of the Davis Avenue Stormwater Retrofit Project with support from The Low Impact Development Center (LID).
The Suitland basin is the first of six slated for construction across Prince George’s County, as part of the collaboration between CWP, LID and the university. If the structure functions according to plan, it will become a permanent fixture in the county’s stormwater management efforts going forward.
“One of the key things that are really great about this is the long-term monitoring associated with this device,” said Pete Littleton, Corvias senior operations manager. “The structure the county and Corvias put together will allow us to maintain this asset for the next 30 years. So rather than being a degraded storm drain system, it will turn into an actual asset that can be maintained.”
The six bioretention basins will be funded in part by a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grant of around $600,000. NFWF Chesapeake Bay Program Director Jake Reilly praised the area for its work toward stormwater management.
“We’re just really proud to be supportive of the work that’s happening here in Prince George’s County,” Reilly said. “To work with local communities to identify what their needs are and for those needs to be addressed in a way that actually helps them further address the clean water commitment the county already has.”
UMD will be tasked with monitoring the Davis Avenue system for its first year of service under the guidance of environmental engineering professor Dr. Allen Davis, who provided input regarding the basin design and pollution removal optimization during the initial planning phase.
Davis and Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate student Blake Wang will track the effectiveness of the basin and attempt to determine the best conditions for pollution removal using automated samplers and a rain gauge.
“It is important to verify with field results the performance of facilities like this,” Davis said. “We need numbers to gauge the success of projects to quantify our progress on Chesapeake Bay improvements. We will use research-grade methods to record rainfall and stormwater inputs and outputs, measuring phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment, and removal.”
The project will use aluminum-based materials for construction, and Davis explained these products have a “strong affinity” for phosphorous removal. He started working with aluminum-based water treatment devices at the university in 2008 and has continued with various studies into optimal methods. The first installation to use the materials was on the College Park campus in 2011.
Davis said the materials researched by him and his team have expanding uses, including a permeable pavement that could help filter stormwater. The professor stressed the significance of projects aimed at smaller tributaries and retention areas, as their influence is felt throughout the watershed.
“Stormwater improvements are made locally, and they have local impacts,” Davis said. “However, they have larger impacts downstream as well, and that’s what makes this project important.”
The retention basin will feature pools about six feet deep connecting to an understructure, which then leads to the nearby creek. Stormwater collects in the pools where it interacts with the filtration materials before flowing down the channel, presumably cleaner and in better condition.
The site is currently a large hole with a deep trench heading toward the creek but will soon be a structure the community can appreciate aesthetically and environmentally.
Celsue Construction Services is undertaking the project, and owner Ruth Davila said the company will also do landscaping around the site and improve the walking path that runs alongside the basin, which is a muddy disaster at present.
Davila said her Laurel-based group will look to work with other local entities and employ nearby residents for the project.
“That’s one of the beauties of this program, most of the work is done by businesses in Prince George’s County,” Davila said.
Per the university, the next five basins will be located at Adelphi, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Temple Hills and Hyattsville, treating a total of 10 drainage acres. Three are scheduled to be completed this fall, while the remaining two are expected to be constructed in the spring.