Soon after the Friends of Lily Pond determined that the water quality in the pond was “extremely poor,” students from nearby Rogers High School decided to take action.
Led by Rogers High School science teacher Scott Dickison, the students suggested several ways to lower the amount of rainwater runoff from the school grounds into the storm drains that feed into Lily Pond.
Located on the north end of the Lily Pond watershed, the RHS campus is situated on top of a hill that causes a downward flow of storm water runoff directly into the pond.
The poor water quality in the pond was determined through tests done by the ESS Group, a Rhode Island based environmental consulting agency hired by the Friends of Lily Pond. The tests revealed a water visibility level of 0.9 meters.
Visibility of less than 1.25 meters is considered “exceedingly poor,” and in the case of Lily Pond, was due partially to suspended sediment.
According to the ESS Group study, 77 percent of the pond’s total inflow comes from surface runoff water entering after a rainfall or storm, much of it from Rogers High School parking lots. Runoff from parking lots contains such pollutants as oil and gasoline that are carried into storm drains.
“Pavement, impervious asphalt, and roofs of the buildings all cause water to flow into the stormwater system,” Dickison said. “Some of those things are here to stay, but we felt some could be addressed.”
As a first step, rain gardens were installed in several areas on campus to collect rainwater, allowing it to seep into the ground instead of into storm drains.
Dickison described the rain gardens as a slight depressions in the soil. Each garden is ringed by dirt that forms a berm to contain the rainwater. He pointed out four areas on the campus where rain gardens could be installed, including three at the edge of the school’s main parking lot. The other would be located adjacent to the school’s front driveway.
According to Dickison, the proposed rain gardens would collect the runoff and retain it until it can naturally disperse into the groundwater.
In addition to the rain gardens, the proposal calls for the removal of two asphalt areas that lead to storm drains. The asphalt would be replaced with loam, grass, and plantings.
Newport School Superintendent John H. Ambrogi said he favors the project: “Not only does the plan help with stormwater runoff, it makes the campus more student-friendly. Right now, it’s broken macadam.”
The work is expected to be done his spring. Dickison added that a 2013 project will address runoff from the school’s eastern parking lot, and will examine the possibility of disconnecting the school’s roof drains – allowing the roof runoff to go into the rain gardens.
Dickison has been writing grant proposals to help fund the project, and says he plans to reach out to the community for volunteers and donations.
The Newport School Committee is expected to examine funding for the project at its next meeting on Tuesday, May 8.