City needs to do a better job selling bioswales
by Henry Euler
Feb 01, 2017 | 6900 views | 0 0 comments | 434 434 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the placement of bioswales, also known as rain gardens, in our communities.

These structures are to be placed curbside for the purpose of absorbing storm water to reduce flooding and the amount of water running into drains. The bioswales would be constructed, for the most part, between the curb and the sidewalk on city property.

Bioswales are permeable areas that absorb water through a series of special soils and drainage stones. They are attractive and environmentally beneficial.

Given the amount of development in all areas of the city and the excessive use of cement over large portions of developed lots, bioswales are designed to help reduce the amount of water that floods streets and homes during storms.

Likewise, many neighborhoods have combined sewer overflow systems that mix runoff water with sewage material coming from homes and businesses. When a storm produces so much water that the drains can no longer handle the run off, huge amounts of this combined sewage is released into our waterways adding to pollution.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the bioswale program by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has caused many concerns and questions. DEP needs to do a better job of educating people as to what bioswales are and do.

There is also the question of who will maintain the bioswales. DEP claims they will do that on a regular basis, however many people are skeptical of city agency promises.

Then there are the concerns about parking by a bioswale. How will passengers exit vehicles safely?

There is also the concern that there will be increased mosquito problems with bioswales. Fortunately, the bioswales are designed to drain quickly and not give mosquitos enough time to evolve in a wet environment.

People wonder who is legally responsible if someone falls over a bioswale and gets injured, the city or the homeowner? One would assume that the city is responsible, since bioswales would be placed on city property.

Then there are the issues of what can be done to improve water runoff in general, like why doesn’t the city do a better job of keeping storm drains and catch basins unclogged in order to absorb more storm water?

Also, why isn’t more effort being made to preserve and protect mature street trees that absorb huge amounts of water? Why doesn’t the Department of Buildings enforce regulations more forcibly that ban the paving over of front yards that should remain open and porous to absorb rain water?

Questions have been raised concerning the homeowners’ prerogative to opt out of having a bioswale placed in front of their property.

Also, many feel that homeowners should be given a rebate on their water bill if they have a bioswale placed in front of their home, since they are helping to reduce flooding problems.

These issues and questions can be resolved through community discussion and better education efforts. In any event, bioswales are beneficial, however, considerations and explanations to the public need to be given by city agencies if this project is to be successful.

Henry Euler is a resident of Auburndale.
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