State agency installs 'facility' to benefit creek by filtering runoff from Annapolis lot Stormwater project uses natural products

December 02, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

A 303-year-old city such as Annapolis suffers no dearth of Colonial charm. But what it sometimes does not have is modern inventions such as storm water management facilities.

The state Department of Natural Resources put the finishing touches yesterday on a clean-water project in its Annapolis headquarters parking lot, and planners hope it will inspire managers of 74 other decades-old parking facilities in the area.

Frank Dawson, director of the DNR's watershed restoration division, said his staff began researching the project two years ago when Friends of College Creek discovered that water contaminated with oil and refuse was running directly from the lots into the creek.

"The city is older, and a lot of things were built" before the state required such facilities for the construction of developments, Dawson said.

"DNR feels some responsibility to not just tell people how to manage their lawns. We felt it would be good for us to demonstrate storm water management on our own land," he said.

With funds from the State Highway Administration, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the state Department of General Services, DNR spent about $70,000 equipping its 2.5-acre parking lot to include a "bioretention facility" that uses plants to filter 70 percent to 90 percent of contaminants.

Instead of collecting rain in a pond and pumping it back into waterways, which Dawson said is the conventional method, the idea of bioretention is to use trees, shrubbery and soil to extract nitrogen and phosphorus -- which contaminate waterways but which are used by plants for growth -- before the water is pumped back into the creek.

"We're trying to mimic nature in the way that nutrients are recycled in a living, dynamic system," said Larry Coffman, associate director in the Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources, who invented the bioretention system.

Coffman said the DNR parking lot is the first bioretention facility in Anne Arundel County and one of about 150 in the state, including 100 in Prince George's County. He said the number of such facilities in Maryland has grown gradually. The idea has attracted storm water management planners to Prince George's County from as far as Japan, Germany and Poland.

In the DNR parking lot, planners removed 17 parking spaces, replaced asphalt with an underground pipe covered with soil and planted a tiny grove of trees and shrubs. When rainwater runs off the parking lot, the soil and plants filter contaminants before the water enters the pipe and is funneled into College Creek.

Before the bioretention facility was constructed, "whenever it rained, whatever was on the parking lot ground, whether it was cigarettes or gum wrappers or beer tabs, it was in the creek in a matter of minutes," said Ron Gardner, a DNR environmental planner.

Edward Cline, deputy director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said sports fans like the look of two bioretention facilities built last year in parking lots E and H of the Baltimore Ravens stadium.

"Parking lot H is the tailgating area for Ravens games," Cline said. "When there's a football game, it's heavily used for a large portion of the day, and this provides a parklike setting."

Pub Date: 12/02/98

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