Pottsgrove students help plant rain garden to control runoff

Macey Long, 16, a Pottsgrove High School junior, shows she was not afraid to get her hands dirty planting a new rain garden Thursday at the school.
Macey Long, 16, a Pottsgrove High School junior, shows she was not afraid to get her hands dirty planting a new rain garden Thursday at the school. Evan Brandt — Digital First Media
Alexis Cornwall, 17, a junior at Pottsgrove High School, is up to her wrists and ankles in mud as she helps to plant a new rain garden at the school Thursday.
Alexis Cornwall, 17, a junior at Pottsgrove High School, is up to her wrists and ankles in mud as she helps to plant a new rain garden at the school Thursday. Evan Brandt — Digital First Media

LOWER POTTSGROVE >> If you want to protect the environment these days, you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, and your feet.

But that wasn’t a problem Thursday when students in the Pottsgrove High School Environmental Club joined representatives from the Montgomery County Conservation District and the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

They were all up to their ankles — and in some cases their wrists — putting the finishing plantings into a rain garden designed to catch and absorb run-off from the visitors parking lot at the school.

“We got a grant from 3M corporation to plant rain gardens at different schools throughout the estuary and we got in touch with Pottsgrove, and they had a need, so we thought we could help them retain that water that was getting into their parking lot,” said Sarah Bouboulis, a habitat specialist with the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.

Advertisement

“The water, instead of washing back up into the parking lot and getting into Sprogel’s Run, will go into the ground and be used by the plants, which use the water slowly and filter it over time,” said Bouboulis.

Krista Scheirer, a watershed specialist with the Montgomery County Conservation District, said her organization helped to design the garden and that the native plants being used are all “riparian” in nature, meaning they like wet soil.

“It’s almost more of a constructed wetland than a rain garden, because the water table is very high here and there is bedrock down just two feet, so some of the water will sit on the surface for a bit, but the plants we’re using will cover it up and absorb that water very well,” said Scheirer.

While the plants may absorb that water when they are fully grown, the wet spring the area has experienced while science teacher Glenn Adams and the students in his Environmental Club squished through the mud trying to get the plants established.

“This is what dedication to the environment means,” Adams joked as the mud sucked at the shoes of the club members, who placed third out of 16 teams in this year’s Enviro-Thon in Montgomery County.

Cole Goldcamp, one of five juniors working in the mud, said the group is also trying to establish a pond in the school courtyard, which Karli Tellis exclaimed “is for the ducks!”

It’s also for the health of the watershed.

Should the storm run-off from the parking lot make its way into Sprogel’s Run, a tributary of the Schuylkill River, it will pollute in three ways — velocity, temperature and pollutants.

Macadam releases a toxic compound known as poly aromatic compounds, or PAH’s, a petroleum-based pollutant that poisons water and can get into the food chain.

Rushing storm water, not slowed or stopped by vegetation, causes erosion along stream banks and puts additional unwanted sediment into the stream.

And by now being allowed to reach a stream slowly over months through the cold ground, warmer storm water raises the temperature of the water, making it harder for cold water-loving fish to survive.