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Old North Rain Garden marks the first neighborhood-scale rainscaping project in $100 million effort

ST. LOUIS Project Clear, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s (MSD) 23-year, $4.7 billion initiative to plan, design, and build system-wide improvements to address water quality and alleviate many wastewater concerns in the St. Louis region, today celebrated the completion of the Old North Rain Garden with a community event and demonstration. This event marks the completion of the first neighborhood-scale rainscaping project, and one of the largest.

Rainscaping is any combination of plantings, water features, catch basins, permeable pavements and other activities that manage stormwater as close as possible to where it falls, rather than moving it someplace else. Below ground level, improved soils store and filter stormwater, allowing the surrounding area to slowly absorb it over time. Above ground level, native plants, basins and water features create public green spaces that also help store water. Used effectively, rainscaping can reclaim stormwater naturally, reduce sewer overflows and minimize basement backups.

In this case, the Old North Rain Garden will retain stormwater and slow its flow into the combined sewer system and therefore into MSD’s wastewater treatment plants. The combined system, mostly in the City of St. Louis, carries both stormwater and wastewater in contrast to the separate system in most of St. Louis County where stormwater and wastewater are designed to flow into different systems.

“The more we can manage the rain on the ground through rainscaping techniques such as these, the less we have to deal with it in the combined sewers,” said Brian Hoelscher, Executive Director of MSD.

The Old North Rain Garden is part of the five-year, $3 million pilot program for Project Clear’s overall $100 million rainscaping effort. The pilot program is designed to understand how these rainscaping components impact combined sewer overflows that can happen as a result of heavy rain events. “We know that rainscaping helps water management, but with this pilot program we hope to understand how much it helps and what techniques are most effective.

“Even in a ‘twenty-year storm’ of five to six inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period, the Old North Rain Garden is designed to manage so much water that the runoff will be as though the entire city block were grass,” Hoelscher said.

This site is the first of six large neighborhood-scale rain gardens, all within MSD’s Bissell Point watershed as part of the District’s Consent Decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. This area encompasses much of north City and some parts to the south, all hugging the Mississippi River. This rain garden was only made possible through a partnership with the City of St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority, who provided the land. SWT Design created the landscape design for Old North, while M3 Engineering Group provided the environmental site assessment and Landesign was the construction contractor. Four of the other sites are nearing completion:

  1. In the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood on the 2800 block of Vandeventer between Maffitt Avenue and St. Louis Avenue, 3rd Ward
  2. In the Ville neighborhood on the 1800 block of N. Sarah across from the intersection of Cote Brilliante Avenue, 4th Ward
  3. In the Mark Twain neighborhood on the 5000 block of Geraldine at Thekla Avenue, 1st Ward
  4. In the Walnut Park East neighborhood 5400 block of Beacon at Harney Avenue, 27th Ward

The sixth rain garden will begin construction soon in the O’Fallon neighborhood at Green Lea and Warne, 21st Ward.

The above map shows the locations of the other pilot projects. The red dots show the location of the neighborhood-scale rain gardens.
The above map shows the locations of the other pilot projects. The red dots show the location of the neighborhood-scale rain gardens. Click the map to view a full-sized version.

Rainscaping is part of a larger effort

Project Clear will involve several types of projects across the St. Louis area, ranging in scale from rainscaping to massive underground tunnels to carry the volume of water needed in a growing region with more paved surfaces, to the disconnection of some residential downspouts in parts of St. Louis County’s separate sewer area from the wastewater sewer line.

This and other Project Clear activities are part of MSD’s $4.7 billion, 23-year Consent Decree with the EPA. To learn more about the Consent Decree, please visit www.stlmsd.com/our-organization/organization-overview/consent-decree.

For more information on Project Clear, visit ProjectClearSTL.org or follow us on Twitter @ProjectClearSTL.

The map above shows the focus area for Rainscaping projects in purple.
The map above shows the focus area for Rainscaping projects in purple. Click the map to view a full-sized version.

About the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD)

Created in 1954, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) works every day to protect the public’s health and the natural environment through effective wastewater and stormwater management strategies.

MSD is responsible for the public sewer system that homes and businesses connect to through lateral lines. Through a labyrinth of connected sewers, wastewater is transported to one of seven sewer treatment plants – nearly 7,000 miles of sewers in all. That is like going from St. Louis to New York City and back three times! Individual property owners are responsible for another important part of the system, the sewer lateral that connects a home’s plumbing to the public sewer in the street.

MSD repairs and replaces broken pipes and manholes within the public system as part of regular maintenance and operations. The St. Louis region’s success with Project Clear will only be possible through strong partnerships and clear communications with the public.

Media Contact:
Mack Bradley

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