WASHINGTON, Beaufort County - Beaufort County Community College is partnering with Sound Rivers on a unique green iniative.
Below is a press release on the news.
A campus can clean water while its students write their papers. With about 100 acres of land, and a fair amount of parking, Beaufort County Community College is partnering with Sound Rivers to help slow and clean the stormwater running off its campus into surrounding creeks.
BCCC's campus sits in the watershed of Broad Creek, which flows into the Pamlico River. While the watershed closest to the creek contains mature forests that are ideal for cleaning stormwater, the parking lots around campus are drained only by grassy ditches (also called swales). Stormwater refers to the runoff created by rainfall. Paved surfaces such as parking lots and rooftops can create problems in smaller creeks because they can overwhelm them with polluted water.
Sound Rivers, a non-profit that works to improve water quality in the Tar-Pamlico and the Neuse watersheds, has previously worked with Edgecombe Community College and East Carolina University to set up rain gardens and constructed wetlands. Students there can now incorporate the green infrastructure into their coursework as an outdoor classroom. BCCC has agribusiness and biology classes that will take advantage of the structures.
"We are excited for the opportunity to partner with BCCC on such an important project," said Matt Butler, environmental projects manager for Sound Rivers. "Treating stormwater runoff and educating the general public is incredibly beneficial."
A good stormwater system can slow down water coming off paved surfaces, meaning that it can reduce flooding and minimize erosion of streambanks. It can also filter some of the pollutants coming off the parking lot, such as oil from leaky engines. The Mideast Commission, Sound Rivers and NC State University are working with schools across the Tar-Pamlico watershed to plan stormwater systems that will help reduce runoff. PS Jones Middle School, Pitt Community College and Washington High School are also opening their campuses to this grant partnership.
"We're always looking for opportunities on campus to be innovative with our infrastructure to compliment our curriculum," said Jason Squires, director of campus operations. "This project will let us have smart and attractive ways to control our runoff."
Stormwater infrastructure can take different forms. Rain gardens, bioretention cells and stormwater wetlands can not only clean and slow water; they can also serve as wildlife habitat and beautify campuses. They transform uninspiring ditches into pleasant landscaping. The result will help make the Pamlico River fishable, swimmable and drinkable.
The project is currently in its initial planning phase thanks to $19,565 grant from a NCDEQ 205(j) Water Quality Management Planning Grant. The Mid-East Commission, Sound Rivers and NC State staff visited the BCCC campus to evaluate potential sites.
BCCC constantly strives to build partnerships with community groups and local employers to improve the economic health of area residents. With the Beau-Fitt program, BCCC has opened its campus to improve residents' physical health. Now with its partnership with Sound Rivers, the college hopes to improve the health of the river that so many residents rely on for recreation.