Experts get knee-deep exploring storm water projects

Lynchburg, Va. (February 18, 2010)- Sweet Briar College had a choice when it started a new construction project: It could allow rain to drain through traditional methods, or it could try something different. By using newer techniques that were better for the environment and looked like natural ponds, the college saved more than $68,000. The work also reduced pollution and allowed water to soak into the ground rather than adding to overburdened streams during storms.

Using that example, environmental experts told nearly 40 area engineers and government workers that the key to meeting proposed regulations aimed at reducing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay is to incorporate creativity and flexibility into development designs. Additionally, those methods may cost significantly less than traditional ones and look more attractive. The trick is to let engineers, planners and designers know about them, said Chris French, with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
“It’s about economic opportunity and saving them money,” he said. “That’s what we need to be talking about in addition to the other stuff. We need to show water quality improvements but also the other stuff.” The Robert E. Lee Soil and Water Conservation District, along with Sweet Briar College and The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, sponsored the workshop Thursday, which also included a tour of the college’s new wetlands. The college just embarked on a new project to create a number of new wetlands and ponds to treat all water washing off the heart of the campus.
One of the reasons the workshop was held at the college is because it is the largest example in Central Virginia of environmentally friendly storm water control methods that meet new standards coming into play, said Mike Russell, with the district. In December, the state water control board approved a slate of new regulations that would force developers to significantly reduce the amount of nutrients running off their sites. But concern from the building community sent those regulations back for public comment, said Lee Hill with the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The General Assembly now is weighing whether to postpone enacting anything until after an expansive plan that details how to reduce nutrients and excess sediment is finished in 2011, Hill said.
“Do not keep the tunnel vision in how you develop,” Hill told engineers. Look at it from a broader view. Look at how you can control your water, reduce your runoff… and meet storm water regulations.” Among the engineers at the conference was Wayne Massie, who works with Wiley1/2Wilson. He said he learned new ways to design projects that give developers options, protect water quality and save money. “Typically, engineers get stuck doing things the same old way,” Massie said. “But they can put together options by reducing costs and saving the environment at the same time. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Related Resources:
Experts get knee-deep exploring storm water projects
Green Solutions to Stormwater Management