One source of environmental stress that many people aren’t aware of comes from the water that runs across the ground during rainstorms. That water does what water typically does, which is go down: either into the storm drains or absorbed into the ground. This leads to two problems. One is that the runoff, during major storms, can overwhelm the capacity of the storm drains and lead to flooding and erosion. The other is that as the water is rushing over the ground it picks up pollutants: herbicides and pesticides that have been applied to gardens; oil and gas residue from parking lots.
Rain gardens are gardens that are constructed specifically to slow the absorption of water and reduce the burden on the storm drains. Ideally, they can filter out some of the pollutants as well. This fall, research by Dr. Paul Edmiston and ABS materials has been testing a rain garden that has been enhanced with his amazing invention, Osorb. (See earlier post here.) His research team created two rain gardens on the site of Crandall Park, just below the parking lot: one standard garden and one in which Osorb had been mixed in with the soil. Dr. Hanbae Yang (PhD from OARDC and now at ABS Materials) led the design and Zachary Harvey CoW ’14 did much of the chemical analysis through sophomore research. Funding came from the National Science Foundation and Campus Grounds did the installation.
Preliminary results show that, indeed, both gardens substantially reduced runoff volume (by 95%). Beyond that, the Osorb-enhanced garden increased the removal of nitrates and phosphates from fertilizer by 40% compared to the standard garden. More detailed analysis is ongoing.
Way to use those Wooster resources — landscape, labor, and creative ideas — to address environmental threats!