By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
A "sponge park" near Gowanus Canal might not be able to clean up the "black mayonnaise" in the dirty canal, but it will help the troubled waterway in the future. Find out how.
But now the canal, which has been an industrial waterway since the 1860s, is getting some help from green infrastructure and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA will spend the next decade cleaning up the canal as a designated Superfund site. And to supplement the cleanup Susannah Drake, a landscape architect, plans to install a "sponge park."
The park won't be able to cleanup the pollution already in the canal -- that's the EPA's job -- but it will help soak up new pollutants and keep them from entering the waterway, Huffington Post reports:
The Sponge Park is part of a larger effort underway in New York to use "green infrastructure" instead of costly pipes and tunnels hidden underground to catch storm runoff. City officials are hopeful they can save some $2.4 billion over 20 years, while also sprucing up the city's open spaces, with the new approach to sewage.
Here's how it works:
Drake and fellow architect Yong Kim have started on the first phase of the park, a series of sidewalk "bioswales" leading up to a "bioretention basin" at the end of Second Street. Put together, they estimate the mini-parks will be able to catch 4,500 cubic feet of water rolling down just this one street on a rainy day. That's enough to cover nine out of ten storms that hit the city.
Other than filtering contaminated water during storms, the idea behind green infrastructure projects like this is that they keep the city from spending big on traditional stormwater infrastructure projects that consists of underground pipes. New York uses a combined sewage overflow system that mixes stormwater and sewage. The problem is that when the system overflows during a storm, raw sewage flows straight into waterways. Green infrastructure eases stress on CSO pipes and, in the case of the "sponge park," keeps contaminants from flowing freely into the canal.
The best projects do all this while making the green infrastructure into a destination that people want to visit and enjoy, without the fear of falling in.
Gowanus Canal To Feature 'Sponge Park' Green Infrastructure [Huffington Post]
Feb 12, 2012
another weak incomplete article - thank goodness there was a link or two to actually get any real information. Cheers
This nice idea isn't new or unique. Stormwater retention for recharge to groundwater or for slow release to surface water (like the Gowanus Canal) has a secondary benefit by improving water quality. Stormwater basins filter out metals and organic contaminants in urban runoff and contaminants can be periodically removed by scarifying the basins during regular maintenance. There is a huge technical problem of inadequate open space to contain a large enough volume to ease the stormwater overload of a combined storm-sanitary sewer in an urban setting like New York City. Constructing sponge parks or other stormwater retention structures would require a much larger land commitment than would be feasible in densely populated cities like New York.
Good point, mikemce. The footprint of the retention scheme is prohibitive. The volume needs to be reduced by some dynamic screening/clarification process equipment that is sized for the job of stormwater runoff. Bioswales are of course good, but not enough to deal with emergencies.
If they develop a long term stratagy of building the parks as the land becomes available they can set the city up to improve in the long run. Failing to do anything now because you think small parks are insignificant is a short sighted attitude. It is that go big or go home mentality that has kept many cities in a down ward spiral for decades. Once the problems are over whelming they no longer have the means to deal with them, even on a small scale. Contrary to the big government spin doctors, you do not have to spend millions or billions to fix every little problem.