In an effort to help limit stormwater pollution of our creeks, Tidal Creek Co-op, in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation, the City of Wilmington, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, is developing a plan to install a rain garden, or bioretention area, to help treat polluted runoff from a nearby parking lot before it can reach Hewlett’s Creek. The rain garden will be located across from the store on Oleander drive and will capture and filter stormwater containing chemicals, sediment, and bacteria. The garden will serve as an educational opportunity for citizens who are interested in helping to improve water quality in their watersheds by including BMPs (Best Management Practices) like rain gardens, rain barrels, and downspout reroutes, on their own property.
Why is Stormwater a problem? Stormwater is the number one cause for water pollution in our creeks and waterways. Every year millions of gallons of polluted runoff are channeled directly into our waterways, causing shellfish closures and swimming advisories. The level of pollution has gotten such that Hewlett’s Creek is completely closed to shellfishing, and Banks Channel in Wrightsville Beach often experiences swimming advisories for high bacteria counts.
So how did this happen? Decades ago our area was covered mostly in forest and sand. When rainfall landed on the ground it soaked in through the soil where it filtered naturally and recharged the aquifers, streams and waterways. This natural filtering process helped keep the local waterways pristine and a perfect habitat for healthy oysters and other aquatic life. For residents in the area shell-fishing was very popular, and families could take their children swimming and boating without worrying about water quality.
As time went by, progress and development started to change the landscape. Impervious, or hard surfaces like roofs, parking lots and streets became much more common and widespread. Slowly, the natural storm-water system became disrupted. When rainfalls lands on an impervious surface it is unable to soak in. Instead, the water quickly runs over the surface picking up pollutants like pet waste, fertilizer, automobile fluids and litter – anything that is on the ground and in the path of the runoff. The water runs into pipes and culverts that lead straight to our creeks and waterways. With the increase in impervious surface came an increase in runoff and over time the waterways were too polluted for shellfish collection.
For more information on stormwater pollution and what you can do to help visit the City of Wilmington’s stormwater website at www.wilmingtonnc.gov/stormwater