Thursday, June 18, 2015

Stormwater Management: More Trees, Less Concrete

Chicago built a giant stormwater/wastewater retention tunnel as part of the city’s Tunnel and Reservoir Plan (TARP).  It’s similar to the tunnel system recommended years ago for Detroit (which Detroit couldn’t afford).

But following storms earlier this week, Chicago’s Deep Tunnel filled to capacity and overflowed, spilling polluted stormwater into Lake Michigan.  CBS in Chicago (WBBN) reported, “ ‘All the tunnels combined, it’s 2.3 billion gallons of capacity that we maxed out,’ MWRD supervising civil engineer Ed Staudacher said.”

The lesson over and over again is that big, downstream, end-of-the-pipe processes and facilities by themselves aren’t the solution to combined storm and wastewater overflows in large metropolitan areas.

Another lesson is that concrete and steel remedies such as the retention-treatment basins (RTBs) that are being expanded in Detroit’s system cost more but aren’t as effective as well planned, region wide green infrastructure.

In New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, for example, forward thinking leaders designed and are completing projects to plant a million trees each.

Trees generate oxygen, remove pollution, store carbon, save energy, improve water quality and slow stormwater runoff.

If each of the 120 upstream communities in the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) system rallied service clubs, chambers of commerce, church groups and Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops to plant with thoughtful placement 1,000 trees per community per year, we’d have a million new trees in eight or nine years.  It’s doable.

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