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Environmentalists tackle stormwater runoff in Bradley, Hewlett’s creeks with new rain garden at UNCW

Updated: Dec. 21, 2020 at 5:16 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - They say to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. The new rain garden on UNCW’s Campus doesn’t look like much now, but leaders know the garden will grow up and reduce a million gallons of runoff annually.

The rain garden was funded with a grant from the North Carolina Division of Water Resources and put in with help from the city, UNCW, the NC Coastal Federation, Flora Landscapes, and Coastal Stormwater Services.

“Stormwater is the greatest polluter of our creeks rivers and sounds and that’s one of the things were really targeting,” said Lauren Kolodij, deputy director of the NC Coastal Federation.”Usually when the rain falls on hard surfaces like the parking lots, the buildings here it flows over the surfaces and picks up pollutants like bacteria and actually transports them to our surface waters.”

The newest rain garden will keep that stormwater out of Bradley Creek and nearby Hewletts Creek, areas that have historically had bacteria problems. Shellfishing continues to be closed in Hewletts Creek and Bradley Creek’s high bacteria count made headlines this August.

New water testing results released Monday show improvement in Bradley Creek’s bacteria counts.

This fall, fecal coliform readings surged to 150 times higher than the level deemed safe by state regulators, but the December 15 samples from the College Acres Station came in at 410 CFU/ 100 mL and the Racine Drive station reading came in at 235 CFU/ 100 mL. For waters in Bradley Creek’s classification, safety standards say fecal coliform levels shall not exceed a geometric mean of 200 CFU/100mL.

“This is great because UNCW is actually the largest landowner the Bradley Creek watershed, so it’s awesome to have them be so willing to participate with this grant project,” said Anna Reh-Gingerich, interim watershed coordinator for the City of Wilmington.

Its just one of several rain gardens on UNCW’s campus, and other innovative efforts like using coconut husks to reduce runoff on their recreation fields.

The city as a whole has been trying to turn the clock back on pollution since the Bradley and Hewletts Creek Watershed Restoration Plan was adopted by city council back in 2012.

“It’s hard because it doesn’t happen overnight but hopefully down the line we will start to see some improvement in the water quality the more practices we continue to put in,” said Reh-Gingerich.

Reh-Gingerich’s department works with homeowners to make small adjustments and also educates corporate developers about actions they can take. It’s a constant battle in a region with three times more parking space as park space, but environmentalists aren’t giving up.

“Doing simple things like this throughout the watershed is really an easy and important way if everyone could embrace this concept and we would really make a big impact,” said Kolodij.

All to cultivate a better future for the areas waterways and the people who depend on them for food and recreation.

To learn how to make adjustments at home or at work, visit the city’s website here to learn how to take action and protect our waterways.

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