Using nature to clean storm water running off a maintenance yard and parking lot next to the Bronx River, county planners have tapped into a widely studied but little known fact: soil and plants can do more to improve water quality than most man-made filtration systems. A system of wetlands, swales and a "rain garden" to cleanse the runoff is now operating at Westchester County's Crestwood Maintenance Facility in the Bronx River Parkway Reservation in Tuckahoe.
The Bronx River stormwater project is intended not only to filter out pollutants from the facility and parking lot, but also serve as a model for homeowners, municipal officials and county agencies as well as an educational tool. The stormwater management practices installed at the facility consist of: two pocket wetlands, wet swale, and modified bioretention basin (i.e., rain garden). Each of these practices was landscaped using native wetland, facultative and upland plants. Invasive, exotic vegetation was removed from the project site, including Japanese knotweed, Japanese barberry, mugwort and garlic mustard.
"Stormwater pollution endangers our drinking water, fish habitat, and recreational areas throughout the Hudson Valley and Long Island Sound. Combating this pollution requires innovative solutions and partnerships between government at all levels. I'm proud to have worked with Westchester County to reinvigorate our native wetlands and watercourses to reduce stormwater pollution. I look forward to continuing this important work in the future," Congresswoman Nita. M. Lowey said of the project.
Once stormwater has been cleansed in the wetlands, swale and rain garden through chemical and biological processes in the soil and vegetation, it is discharged into the Bronx River as surface and/or ground water. Each of these project components accept polluted stormwater runoff either from the maintenance facility via three pipes that discharge into the wetlands or from sheet runoff from the parking lot and paved Bronx River Bike Path.
The existing wet swale had been channelized by past filling activities and its banks had been largely devoid of vegetation. As part of the project, native perennials and shrubs were planted along the swale, thereby improving its ability to filter out pollutants carried in stormwater. The rain garden is a very shallow, landscaped depression accepting adjacent sheet runoff from the bike path.
Three attractive, permanent signs have been installed at the site to explain each of the project components to visitors and other people using the adjacent path and parking lot.
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