Rain gardens protecting environment

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Cherry Hill Sun

The first of several rain gardens in Cherry Hill was installed last week alongside the township’s department of public works building. The rain garden is the first installation of more than 50 planned for the area, coordinated by project managers from Rutgers Camden County Cooperative Extension.

A collection of several of the County’s Master Gardeners and community volunteers gathered at the DPW site and worked for several hours to install the first rain garden in the area in conjunction with the Rutgers-led water initiative. It took several hours to complete, and afterwards the volunteers were treated to lunch at the site by Mayor Bernie Platt and several members of Township Council.

Rain gardens are planted depressions that basically siphons rainwater runoff to the ground in areas that generally don’t offer opportunities for rainwater to be absorbed back into the earth. Such areas include roofs, driveways, sidewalks, and other such urban areas.

Rainwater that is absorbed through the ground and not through surface water or storm drains is significantly less polluted. According to Cook College of Rutgers University, rainwater that is not filtered through the ground can contain fertilizers, petrochemicals and pesticides which may have accumulated on driveways, sidewalks, or streets.

Soil acts as a natural filter, eliminating the various pollutants and taking in nutrients from the rainwater.

Volunteers helped create the rain garden and planted several different natural varieties of plant life that are local to the Cherry Hill environment.

Chief of Staff Dan Keashen said there are about 10 more rain gardens being planned for Cherry Hill. The gardens, he said, help protect the Cherry Hill environment.

“It’s great for the storm water runoff because it properly filters the water and helps improve the environment,” he said.

The Cooper River Watershed rain garden project will be fully implemented over the next year. The project is funded by a federal grant, according to the township, and will naturally filter and treat more than 1 million gallons of area storm water runoff each year.

In other township environmental news:

• Members of Council unanimously approved an ordinance on second reading to prohibit the use of plastic yard-waste bags. Adopted at a public hearing on May 10, the township’s residential waste haulers will only collect curbside lawn and tree debris that are stored in biodegradable bags or from open-top receptacles.

It’s a simple measure that could help save Cherry Hill thousands of dollars, Keashen said. By taking the bags out of the equation, Keashen said it will save time and money for the workers that have to remove and dispose of the bags before recycling the natural debris.

Keashen went on to note that Cherry Hill would prevent hundreds of thousands of pounds of thick, black plastic from entering the waste stream and being burned or buried in a landfill.

The simple measure will likely save Cherry Hill up to $100,000 a year.

Residents can put their yard debris in their old recycling cans they used before receiving the RecycleBank units.