More to bioswale sites near Baldwin HS than meet the eye

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Visitors to Baldwin High School soon will drive by lush, new greenery planted along the Route 51 corridor.

The plants will serve more than an aesthetic purpose.

Economic Development South and The Penn State Center will install two bioswale gardens, with one near a Sunoco station and the other close to the Baldwin High School welcome sign on Route 51.

“It's 180,000 gallons of water a year that aren't going straight into sewers,” said Stephanie Miller, EDS manager of projects and initiatives.

The bioswales will consist of washed aggregate limestone covered with a geotextile fabric to slow the flow of stormwater, said David Himes, project landscape designer from The Penn State Center, located on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.

A mixture of soil, sand and compost will be spread for planting grasses, shrubs and perennials. It has not been decided which plants will be used, but some options are switchgrass, cardinal flowers and winterberry.

The plants will help keep the soil in place, in addition to absorbing any pollutants that would be in the water, Himes said.

“Any pollutants that would be in this area would probably be oil drips from passing cars,” he said.

The project is scheduled to begin Sept. 23 at no cost to the school district.

The Penn State Center received a grant from the Port of Pittsburgh Commission for $20,000 to complete the stormwater mitigation demonstration.

Whitehall will provide a backhoe, truck and several public works crew members to assist with the project, said James Leventry, borough manager.

EDS originally looked for a site along Route 88 because there is more flooding, but ultimately decided to use the ground near Baldwin High School.

“It became really challenging, dealing with business owners,” Miller said. “The high school had a lot of open grass and we were already talking to the school district about other projects.”

The project also will serve as an educational experience for public works and students in the school district, from the middle and high school levels. Students will be involved with the planting process.

“We have talked about incorporating (the project into the curriculum) not only on site at the high school, but at the middle school level,” Superintendent Randal Lutz said.

EDS and The Penn State Center can suggest curriculum lessons, but do not provide specific material, Himes said. The center does provide an in-depth maintenance guide, and the school district will be responsible for the upkeep.

“The only real cost they are going to see is mulch and labor for weeding and watering,” Himes said. “I think they will find some outlet from the students and community, but the overall responsibility lies with the school district.”

Brittany Goncar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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