Chemical Analyses from Nov. 1st

 

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A Wet Halloween Weekend in Gentilly

by Stephanie Gross

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Sunday afternoon, I swung by the Gentilly rain garden on Wildair Dr.
Much like the Forshey site, water could be seen puddled by the dropbox, bases of trees, and in the ditch of the rain garden. Drains leading from the streets had debris and trash, but nothing too large to majorly disrupt the flow of water into the rain garden.

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As mentioned before, pollutants in the form of fertilizer, motor oil, metals, grease, pet waste, etc. are filtered out by soil, roots of plants, and compost, so the garden naturally improves water quality.

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Just as the Forshey site, spider lilies, palmettos, Cypress trees, and Louisiana grasses are seen growing. And in a few spots you can see irises too!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures. Chemical analysis will be provided at a later time.

A Wet Halloween Weekend in Midcity

by Stephanie Gross

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According to The National Weather Forecast, New Orleans will receive somewhere between 4 to 6 inches of rain fall today. Combined with the intensity of rain from yesterday, runoffs and possible flooding will affect many areas in our city. It’s good to see the beautiful rain garden in Midcity (Forshey St.) collecting water not only in the ditch but also the dropbox.

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Drains that divert water from the streets into the rain garden are relatively clear with a bit of trash and debris at the edges. Before the street will flood, runoffs will enter the rain garden and the plants will filter any pollutants in the form of fertilizer, motor oil, metals, grease, pet waste, etc.

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While the irises are no longer present in the ditch, spider lilies, palmettos, Cypress trees, and Louisiana grasses are seen growing. There root systems are soaking up rain water and acting as organic filters to remove high nitrogen, phosphorus, iron, and metals from the soil. Compost at the base of these plants also helps with filtration.

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As for the water chemistry, a few tests have been completed but more processing needs to be done before I can report the findings here. Hardness tests are in the range of 80ppm both inside and outside the dropbox.

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Backseat chemistry at its finest!

Try to keep dry, but know that these natural environments are doing their part to offset the affects of flooding.

October 25, 2015 Observations of Forshey and Wildair Rain gardens

by Stephanie Gross

A great amount of rain hit New Orleans last weekend and we’ll see more this weekend as well.

Again the Forshey site did not collect any water in the dropbox or ditches, so no water chemistry was performed. I believe this site is not effective at collecting water. Water was collected from the the Wildair site. Here are the water chemistry results:

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What are rain gardens and why are they important in New Orleans?

by Stephanie Gross

What is a rain garden?
A rain garden is a garden that collects storm water, filters out chemicals, and reduces flooding.

You can think of a rain garden as a buffer zone. Instead of dumping storm water into the drainage system or in our bayous and rivers, runoffs from storms are collected in a rain garden and are filtered by native plants to remove chemicals. A well constructed rain garden is often depressed or bowl shaped to encourage water accumulation into the garden. It should have soil that absorbs water and drains within a few hours. Soil that keeps pockets of standing water would be undesirable because it facilitates mosquito breeding.

Many harmful chemicals such a pesticides, fertilizer, motor oil, metals, grease, pet waste, etc., collected in runoffs find their way back to water treatment centers where they must be removed from the water supply. Rain gardens organic construction acts as a filter. Soil, plant roots, mulch, and even fungi and bacteria break down these harmful chemicals naturally.

Planting water loving plants like Cypress trees, Louisiana irises, Spider lilies, and native grasses – all which can be seen at the Wildair and Forshey sites- not only beautifies the area, but also encourages these native plants to do what they do best- minimize water accumulation and reduce erosion.

These key features of a rain garden are very important in New Orleans neighborhoods. Enjoy these rain gardens for their beauty and for what they provide you by reducing flood water. If you see trash or debris obstructing the drainage or harming the plant life, please remove it and dispose of it properly. This is an ongoing project to solve water problems that our city faces.

The habitat and functionality of the Hollygrove and Midcity Rain Gardens

 by Stephanie Gross

This is a follow-up to the water chemistry post I made earlier this month. I have been monitoring a garden on Forshey St in Hollygrove and another on Wildair Dr in Midcity since April 2015, just about six months. The two sites have bowl shapes or deep ditches surrounded by native plants and grasses such as Taxodium distichum or cypress trees, Muhlenbergia capillaries which are known as Poas or grasses, Sabel minor also referred to as a palm or palmetto, Hymenocallis liriosme or spider lilies, and several Louisiana irises.

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Above: The Forshey rain garden with cypress trees lining the garden, lilies and irises in the flower beds, and grasses behind the flower beds.

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Above: Wildair rain garden with grasses seen towards the front left, irises in the water, spider lilies can be seen in the flower bed which also have grasses, and small cypresses are lining the exterior of the property.

I believe the gardens are functioning well, collecting water from rainfall and run-offs from the street. They are not only prevent flooding from large rain events, but also are filtering undesirable chemicals. Water chemistry data shows that low levels of phosphorus, nitrogen, and metals are detected with regular water sample collection. Additionally, I have never found standing water at either site 24 hours after a rain event, which is important for reducing mosquito activity.

There are a few undesirable issues, however. During an intense rain even in May, two cypress trees were damaged at the Wildair site.

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Above left: A cypress had to be pruned because high winds snapped the bark in two. Above right: A stake had to be attached to another cypress so that it would grow upright.

The cypresses are now looking healthier.

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Above left: The pruned cypress in June. Above right: Both the pruned cypress and the staked cypress look healthy in August.

The Wildair site also has a lot of soil erosion and loss of grass.
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In terms of water collection, water was collected from the Wildair site at least once a month and only once in the past six months at the Forshey site. The Forshey site is not as bowled or depressed as the Wildair site, which may be affecting its functionality. Sure, one part of the city may have more rain than the other, but I do not believe that frequency of rain alone is affecting this difference in these two sites.

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Above: The dropbox at Forshey containing just a few millilitres of water earlier this month after a week’s worth of rain.

My observations are being shared with Water Works, Bayou Land RC&D, and the Mosquito & Termite Control and of course on this site. Data collection and progress reports are still being generated for continued study of these sites.

*click on images to make them larger*

Community Liaison Jada

by Stephanie Gross

STEM is an important academic discipline that is a hot topic in the 21st century. It is an acronym that includes the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. So, it’s always great news to hear that some of the best of the best are being educated right here in New Orleans. Community Liaison Jada Woods has been monitoring one of our rain gardens and here’s a little background about her:

“My name is Jada Woods and I am a recent graduate of Sci Academy. I am currently attending Bard College on a Posse scholarship, where I intend to major in environmental science. Choosing my major was very tough, but I realized that I wanted to major in environmental science right after I started working with Water Works, Bayou Land RC&D, and the Mosquito & Termite Control board. The goal of the water quality monitoring project is to make sure the water is safe and healthy for the ecosystems and human contact by treating the polluted rain runoff. The lot that I am in charge of  will help cut down flooding in New Orleans neighborhoods after heavy rain. Collecting water right after it rains gives me a chance to see the process of the bioretention cell. Working with Water Works, Bayou Land RC&D, and the Mosquito & Termite Control board has given me an insight on what it means to care about the environment.”

Well done, Jada. It’s sad to see you go, but we wish you continued success in your studies.