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Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Botanical Garden’

BY LISA OWENS VIANI

In Great Lakes cities, derelict parcels sponge up stormwater.

FROM THE AUGUST 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Eight years ago, Sandra Albro, a research associate in applied urban ecology at the Cleveland Botanical Garden (now Holden Forests & Gardens) began to think about opportunities lurking in the city’s vacant lots—in particular how to help cities with their water quality problems. During heavy rains, raw sewage from old, leaky, combined sewer-stormwater systems is often flushed into the Great Lakes, resulting in beach closures not fun for tourists. At the same time, in Cleveland, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Gary, Indiana—where populations have declined by as much as 40 to 50 percent since the 1950s—derelict houses and vacant lots have increased: 30,000 in Cleveland, 7,000 in Gary, and more than 6,000 in Buffalo.

Cleveland, Buffalo, and Gary are among 158 communities with permits from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discharge treated wastewater into the Great Lakes. The agency has also charged them with implementing Long Term Control Plans under the Clean Water Act to eliminate discharges of untreated sewage from their combined system overflows. “It’s a funny thing,” says David Rankin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Protection Fund, a private nonprofit corporation that funds projects to build the health of the lakes. “Most of the time these systems do a great job of managing stormwater—they actually treat it. It was state-of-the-art Victorian engineering that dates back to the Industrial Revolution. But in heavy rains, some waste gets flushed out, too—and when you’re looking at more than 100 dischargers, it starts to add up.” According to the EPA, in 2014 the toll was an estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated wastewater discharged into the lakes.

Rankin says Great Lakes cities need to think differently about the problem—many are trying to find funding to build massive pipes. But with their populations declining, he suggests these cities should think about solutions that don’t involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. So when Albro came to him with her idea for using vacant lots to capture stormwater, the fund awarded her a small grant to develop a plan. She contacted 11 Great Lakes cities, (more…)

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