The Ursinus Naturalized Stormwater Basin - History

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Feb 22, 2014 (3 years and 5 months ago)

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The Ursinus Naturalized Stormwater
Basin
-

History

The Ursinus College naturalized stormwater basin has transformed the landscape of Ursinus College.
Throughout the coming years, the wetland
will become an integral part of the daily academic and extra
-
curricular life at Ursinus. This area in the north
-
west corner of campus will become one of the premier
tranquil, pristine, natural settings in the Collegeville area. Academic programs will begin

to prosper by
using the area for research and inspiration, while the community will benefit from outdoor workshops. The
wetland promises to enhance everyone’s knowledge that comes into contact

with it.


The basin started out as a sedimentation basin tha
t was created during the construction of new buildings on
campus. Erony Whyte '05, an Environmental Studies alumna, began researching the sedimentation basin as
a Summer Fellows project in 2004. From her research, she proposed the creation of an extended d
etention
wet pond.


An extended detention basin is a basin that releases water more slowly than a regular pond whether the
pond is dry or wet. A wet pond maintains a permanent pool of water at a certain level; compared to a dry
pond which is a grass basin

that collects storm water and gradually drains it. Erony’s final proposal of an
extended detention wet pond was due to the fact that extended detention wet ponds filter pollutants much
better than other basins. Extended detention dry ponds provide sedimen
t removal and some pollutant
removal during storms. Regular detention wet ponds provide sediment removal and inexpensive, low
-
maintenance, and effective wastewater treatment capable of treating high pollutant loads and fluctuating
hydrology. Extended deten
tion wet ponds are more effective than regular detention wet ponds in providing
these functions. They offer all of these with additional benefits of aesthetics, habitat creation, recreation
and education.


The site of the naturalized stormwater basin is a
three
-
acre detention basin, constructed in 2001 on the
north
-
west end of campus. Stormwater from a 38
-
acre watershed culminates in the three
-
acre basin. This
watershed includes the parking lot located on the west side of campus, the College’s performing ar
ts center,
baseball field, field hockey field, tennis courts, a large dorm complex, and the gymnasium complex. The
original basin was designed for the collection of sediments from land exposed due to construction. A 1987
statute entitled National Pollution

Discharged Elimination System, an amendment to the Clean Water Act,
required industrial and electrical facilities, as well as construction sites greater than five acres to regulate
and monitor effluent limits in a collection basin. The College’s plan was
to transform this sedimentation
basin into a wet pond upon the completion of construction.


Erony’s proposal was to retrofit the existing basin into an extended detention wet pond. Her goals were as
follows:

Maintain basin’s utilitarian function of retain
ing 100
-
year storm levels Use native plants that are beneficial
to water quality and wildlife Create an aesthetically pleasing open space Foster educational and recreational
opportunities that support campus Master Plan Reduce maintenance requirements for
Physical Plant
Provide cost
-
effective design

The underlying goal of the extended detention wet pond was to filter out pollutants collected in storm water
runoff, including oil, grease, and heavy metals from developed surfaces and excess nitrogen, phosphor
ous
(e.g. from fertilizers, sediment), and pesticides from grass surfaces. The west end parking lot that houses
the majority of the students’ vehicles is a major contributor of pollutants in the College’s storm water run
-
off.


The extended detention wet p
ond would serve as the filter by slowing the flow of flood water,
desynchronizing the peak contributions of tributary streams, and reducing peak flows on main rivers. The
newly created wet ecosystem would advance the water quality of the Perkiomen Creek, i
nto which the
College’s storm water eventually drains. The Perkiomen Creek is a tributary of the Schuylkill River and has
a 372 square mile watershed. The Schuylkill feeds into the Delaware River and ultimately the Atlantic
Ocean.


The extended detention
wet pond will filter pollutants by having the vegetation remove pollutants through
physical and biochemical processes. This filtered water will be drained into the Perkiomen Creek,
approximately one
-
thousand and three
-
hundred feet from the drainage basin.
The best filtration is
conducted with native species to the ecosystem. Native plants are best adapted to growing and breaking
down pollutants in an ecosystem and thereafter will attract native wildlife.


Plants that are used to treat water pollution are ca
lled phytotechnology. A wet pond is a specific
phytotechnology that provides multiple benefits for the storm water, wildlife, and the people that live near
the pond. Working with environmental engineering firm F.X. Browne, Erony created blueprints of the
p
roposed wet pond, as well as a planting plan.


The final proposal of the extended naturalized stormwater basin included three zones. Zone one will only
come into contact with storm water when levels are high; zone two will be partially submerged or in high

levels completely inundated with water; the final zone is relatively deep, at the lowest elevations. These
three zones are crucial for ecosystem construction and viability. Other zones within the pond and upland
areas will vegetate naturally with hardy vo
lunteer species. The extended detention wet pond created by
Erony Whyte helped to create a natural setting on campus, while continuing the college’s master plan to
preserve and protect natural beauty on campus. The proposal and research conducted by Whyte
in 2004 and
2005 established a foundation for the further development of the wetland on Ursinus College. In 2005,
Erony was awarded a storm water management best practices award by the Schuylkill Action Network for
her design of the basin.


In 2006, after
Erony Whyte graduated from Ursinus, Environmental Studies Major Sara Schubel '07
became director of the basin project. Working with the College’s Facilities Services Office and F.X.
Browne, Sara oversaw various feasibility studies based on Erony’s detailed

report and planning documents.
Among the tests that Sara oversaw was a permeability study to determine if an in
-
ground liner was needed
for the pond. The results of this study indicated that a clay liner would in fact be needed in order to
maintain the de
pth of water level necessary for the naturalized basin.


To simplify the project (and reduce construction expenses), Sara and the Ursinus team worked closely with
F.X. Browne to develop a more cost
-
effective, but just as ecologically advantageous plan. Th
e result was a
proposed constructed wetland, which would not require a liner due to its lower water depth requirements.
The wetland proposal fit the contours laid out in the original design, and would allow for the filtration of
pollutants by establishing
a wet ecosystem and a gradual drainage process, very similar to the original
extended detention wet pond design. The only difference between the wetland and the pond would be a
steady drainage flow from the basin. Because of a steady drainage flow, no line
r would be needed and
water levels would not be as high.


In the fall of 2006, an excavating firm visited the basin site and regarded the basin in preparation for
planting the wetland. Woody shrubs were planted throughout the wetland following the constru
ction.
Further planting of lower
-
elevation plants has occurred in the spring and summer of 2007.


In the spring of 2007, students in the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar joined Sara Schubel in the
planning process of the wetland. Seminar’s Wetland Pla
nning Team consisted of Environmental Studies
majors Steve Ordog, Rachael Greenly, Zak Arnhold, and Joe Joyce. Together, they developed a master plan
of the wetland, delineating strategies for integrating the wetland with the Ursinus academic program. This

included an ecological monitoring plan for collecting data on level of pollutants entering the wetland,
leaving the wetland, and draining into the Perkiomen Creek. The ecological monitoring plan will be used to
promote research in courses in several disci
plines, including Environmental Studies, Biology, Chemistry,
Mathematics, Physics, and Geology. The master plan also establishes a strategy for community
involvement. The community consists of Ursinus College’s student, staff, and faculty, surrounding scho
ol
districts, civic organizations, and the Collegeville community, and may include community workshops and
the future infrastructure of the basin.


The naturalized stormwater basin is a project has taken many years to complete, several plantings, and
dedi
cation by students, faculty and staff. The basin is a natural, harmonious space on campus enhances the
life of every student, faculty, staff, and community member that comes in contact with it.