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Rain gardens enhance Sewickley Borough building

| Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 4:15 p.m.

The Borough of Sewickley, joined by the Fern Hollow Nature Center, has recently completed the installation of two rain gardens in the front yard of the borough building.

The rain gardens are part of a larger initiative following the Clean Water Act of 1972, which allows the Environmental Protection Agency to federally mandate pollution control and wastewater management.

“This is probably the biggest project we've done,” Sewickley Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said. “The federal Clean Water Act is here. We just have to continually educate people of the benefits with slow, deliberate steps.”

Flannery explained the MS4 — the municipal separate storm sewer system, which indicates ways to properly dispose of things.

“This is part of our program like the Mutt Mitts,” Flannery said.

Once dog owners use the biodegradable “mitts” to pick up after their dogs, “You're supposed to bring the dog product to your home and dispose down the toilet,” Flannery said, although acknowledging even throwing it in the garbage is preferable to kicking it down the sewers, which flow to the Ohio River water source.

Another related impact is one Flannery refers to as generational — washing cars in the road.

Instead, they are to be washed on stone or in the grass, so the soapy water can be reprocessed into the soil.

“In Sewickley, we're going to hold a public information session on Sept. 12 to update what we've done to date and for moving forward,” Flannery said.

There is talk among the board of a possible storm water management fee in 2018.

“It's probably going to be people disconnecting down spouts,” Flannery said. “It helps promote what larger facilities can do in town,” with regards to regenerating soil.

The rain garden installed outside of the borough building serves to collect rain water runoff from the rooftop. The shallow depression prevents water from reaching the sewers, preserves the water, and prevents flooding.

The rain regenerates the garden's soil.

“You have to determine how much water is coming off, how wide and how deep the beds are,” said Sam Capezzuto of Fern Hollow Nature Center.

“This time next year, the plants will be beautiful and sturdy. They're all native,” she said.

Fern Hollow has several municipal partnerships, including Aleppo, Leetsdale, Leet, and Sewickley Heights. It is located within the community of Sewickley.

“This is why the partnership has really peaked our interest,” Flannery said. “Fern Hollow took care of architects and the borough paid for the people to install. We're very proud of this. We know we're not 100 percent but it's a small step. It was a joint project to let people know what's coming. It's a government requirement, but there are easy ways to do it, like the rain garden.”

Flannery said the requirement has added a cost of $200,000 to the budget each year, and there is no government funding provided. The borough maintains the garden, and for the first six months, a representative from Eco Lands will also stop by to maintain.

The project cost “a little under $9,000” including labor, installation and the cost of plants.

Fern Hollow provided 10-12 volunteers, design, landscape, and architect review, which offset the cost from what could have been $30,000.

“I think it's a great project,” Flannery said. “We've disconnected our downspouts. Rain gardens will be a positive thing for years to come.”

Rebecca L. Ferraro is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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