The Joseph H. Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton is receiving a major green infrastructure upgrade thanks to a partnership among the Stoughton Engineering Department, the Neponset River Watershed Association, and MassDEP.
Parking lot and roadway runoff from the Gibbons School property in Stoughton currently discharges to Woods Pond and a small tributary of Steep Hill Brook with little or no treatment to remove contaminants such as sand, fertilizers, oil, and bacteria. The $137,000 in funds recently announced by the Baker Administration, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the US Environmental Protection Agency will allow the school grounds to be upgraded with modern stormwater controls.
The total cost for the project will be $236,000 with $137,000 coming from the grant and the remainder coming in the form of an “in-kind” match of services provided by the Town. The Stoughton Engineering Department will take the lead in preparing the final designs for the project and managing the construction process, while staff from the Stoughton Department of Public Works will do most of the construction. The Watershed Association will help manage the grant process and will also conduct public outreach related to the project.
Increasingly, Stoughton and other communities in Eastern Massachusetts, are being required to reduce the amount of polluted runoff or “stormwater” that they discharge to local waterways.
“Stormwater runoff is a major source of water pollution in Stoughton,” said Ian Cooke, NepRWA’s Executive Director. “Every time it rains, stormwater washes all of the stuff that has accumulated on the streets into the nearest river or pond. Stormwater basins, like the ones being built at the Gibbons School, are a great way to clean up that pollution before it becomes a problem.”
In addition to removing pollution, the new bio-retention basins are designed to beautify the school’s grounds and provide hands-on educational opportunities for the students.
Three bioretention basins and an infiltration basin, designed to collect and filter polluted stormwater runoff from the school’s parking lots, are currently under construction.
In addition to removing pollution, the new bio-retention basins are designed to beautify the school’s grounds and provide hands-on educational opportunities for the students. NepRWA staff visited 4th grade Gibbons School students in October to explain the project, and will follow up in the spring, once the project is complete.
Infiltration and bioretention basins are like scaled-up versions of a rain garden that you might build in your front yard. However, there are some key differences between home rain gardens and the basins that will be built at the Gibbon’s School.
- Infiltration basins are similar to rain gardens in that they are open on the bottom, allowing water to soak directly through the soil and into the ground, but they differ by what is on the surface. Rain gardens are typically full of native shrubs, trees, and flowers and are mulched much like a traditional garden, while infiltration basins are usually covered by a grassy lawn.
- Bioretention basins appear very similar to rain gardens on the surface, full of lush shrubs and flowers. However, unlike rain gardens, bioretention basins have special fast-draining filtration soil, a liner, and a drain on the bottom that is connected to the traditional storm drain system. Bioretention basins are used when a site’s soils aren’t loose enough to quickly soak the rain into the ground.
One of the biggest challenges for older communities like Stoughton and others in the Neponset Valley is that most existing development predates relatively recent rules requiring developers to apply these techniques when they build.
The solution is “retrofitting” or upgrading existing sites to add stormwater management features over time as buildings, parking lots, roads and other paved areas are maintained and redeveloped.
Long-Term Benefits for More than Water Quality
In addition to cleaner water, the project will give the staff of the Stoughton Engineering Department and DPW a chance to work together during a hands-on project, which can serve as a dry run for updating stormwater features at other properties around town. Eventually retrofitting in other areas will be required under rules for municipalities being issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency. By partnering with the Watershed Association now, the town is able to be proactive in getting ready for these future requirements, as well as protecting the town’s natural resources, all with the help of outside grant funding.
Photos below show the progress on the rain garden/green infrastructure project as of Dec. 7, 2017.
The project has been financed with federal funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (the Department) under an s. 319 competitive grant. The contents do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of EPA or of the Department.