By Karen Cornelius
Right now, North Main Street is still filled with orange barrels and in the midst of onging construction. It is still a one-way street going north to the lake. With the new watermain installed on the eastside of Main Street, contractor Abraham/Miller is moving to the west side of North Main for another project, adding curbs and pervious pavement to improve storm water drainage to Lake Erie.
Erie Conservation District Urban Conservation Technician Melissa Fetter stated, “Vermilion is doing their part to protect and improve the water quality of Lake Erie. She explained the city was awarded federal grant funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to improve the quality of storm water runoff down Main Street by incorporating “green infrastructure.” As rain water or snow melt flows across hard sufaces such as roof tops, parking lots and roads, the water picks up and carries all kinds of pollutants with it including sediment, bacteria, and nutrients like Phosphorus and Nitogen. Fetter said many people think this all goes to a treatment plant to get cleaned, but that’s not the case. She said the stormwater and all the hitch-hiking pollutants it carries goes straight to the nearest creek, river, or directly to the shores of Lake Erie.
Fetter acknowledged that the Main Street project is incorporating “green infrastructue” to help reduce the amount of untreated stormwater running down to Main Street Beach. Traditionally, said Fetter, communities put in storm sewers and catch basins referred to as “gray infrastructure” to transport stormwater quickly to the closest waterway. However, as a small town on a Great Lake, Vermilion has looked for ways to improve local water quality and incorporate “green” over “gray” as often as possible. For that effort Fetter applauds the city.
She said “green” infrastructure includes permeable pavements where water can infiltrate through the surface, bio-retentions or rain gardens, and green roofs, vegetated rooftops that capture stormwater. These green practices mimic nature by capturing and cleaning stormwater before it reaches local waterways. “For Main Street, city officials secured funding to install both permeable pavers and bio-retentions,” said Fetter.
Fetter, who works closely with the city, stated that the Main Street project is one of many improvements the city is working on to reduce the negative impacts of polluted stormwater runoff and enhance the experience of living, working, and playing in Vermilion. For example, she said that the city and Vermilion Parks Board enhanced the deteriorating parking lot at Showse Park by reducing the size of the parking lot, installing permeable pavers, and planting trees. Thus, the city minimized the risk for potential pollutants to run off directly into Lake Erie and prevent erosion from occurring along the banks. “These two projects highlight what it means to be responsible and respectful to our greatest resource,” said Fetter.
She advised those who want to learn more about green infrastructure or ways to improve their homes or businesses to have a positive impact on local water quality to visit http://www.erieconserves.org or call the Erie Conservation District at 419-626-5211.