NHSA builds Hoboken’s first rain garden
Hoboken’s first rain garden established by NHSA
When the rain comes down hard in Hoboken, the flood waters often rise. With many parts of the city sitting below sea level, residents may have to deal with flooded streets and homes several times a year. Solutions can be expensive; the North Hudson Sewerage Authority completed a new wet weather pump station in 2011 at a cost of approximately $18 million to drain water from the streets more quickly, and plans for a second pump are in the works with perhaps two more waiting in the wings.
While these and other infrastructure improvements are necessary and can make the most significant impacts, an inexpensive, low-tech approach can also be part of the solution, something so simple, people can install one at home. It’s a rain garden.
NHSA: Rain garden holds 1000’s of gallons of water
The NHSA recently completed Hoboken’s first public rain garden at the Authority’s headquarters and wastewater treatment plant on Adams Street, with plantings lining the front and west sides of the building. The Authority commissioned the garden’s design and workers from CH2M HILL, which operates and maintains the system, installed the plants and other components.
“As we work together to resolve our flooding issues, we need to look at every available opportunity to reduce the amount of stormwater flowing into our system,” said Dr. Richard Wolff, NHSA executive director. “Rain gardens are a fairly simple way to help alleviate the problem in a way that also provides additional benefit, creating a beautiful setting that serves as a habitat for birds and beneficial insects while reducing pests and harmful insects. The Authority is proud to establish this garden to demonstrate those benefits and serve as an example for the community.”
Rain and melting snow runs off roofs, driveways and parking lots and flows directly into the street and then down the storm drain, carrying pollutants such as oil, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, transportation chemicals, sediment all sorts of other things. The NHSA wastewater collection system is a combined sewer system, meaning that the same pipes handle both wastewater from homes and businesses along with this stormwater runoff. Heavy rains can overwhelm the system, sending flood waters with contaminants from both sources into streets and homes.
A rain garden captures that runoff before it reaches the storm drains, holding not only thousands of gallons of rainwater that can be reused for irrigation and other purposes, but all of those pollutants as well. In the NHSA’s case, the rain garden collects water running off the facility’s parking lots. After the water is captured, it soaks deep into the ground so it can be used by the nearby plants and trees. Native plants, such as the switchgrass and little bluestem used in the NHSA garden, also help to soak up the water while promoting deep root growth that helps to break up hard soil and infiltrate water and nutrients deep into the ground. The plants, mulch and soil break down the pollutants and render them harmless.
A rain garden that can mimic the natural absorption and pollutant removal patters of a forest, meadow or prairie, and can absorb runoff more efficiently – sometimes as much as 30-40 percent more – than a standard lawn. Capturing rainwater in a garden, holding it for a short time and then slowly reducing it into the soil can reduce the rush of a large storm quickly, neatly and naturally.
“The rain garden also makes a great statement around the wastewater plant, and we’ll use it to teach kids and adults about the nature of nature,” said Authority Chairman Frank Raia, noting that it will be a regular stop on the educational tours the NHSA routinely hosts at the facility.
“There is no single solution to our flooding issues, but we at the NHSA hope to see other rain gardens going in throughout Hoboken and our entire service area,” Wolff said.