NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - The wetlands may be man-made, but the way it's cleaning the water is a natural process, by using plants. The wetlands are located just of Simmons Street in New Bern.
A new drainage design will now keep floodwaters from thunderstorms out of nearby places like Duffy Field and the North Hills and instead rush to the wetlands. In total the wetlands will treat about 1,000 acres worth of storm water. Once the stormwater hits the wetlands it is carefully steered into a series of ponds, or as engineers call them, cells. The cells are stocked with special plants that will filter out excess nutrients that can contaminate the water. After making it through several cells, the clean water is fed back into the Neuse River.
Each day the wetlands are sustained by a small pump which pushes about 1,000 gallons of water per minute. But during big events, much larger pumps are on standby.
"Once we get into the bigger storms, the tropical storms the big pumps will kick on. It will pump approximately 40,000 gallons per minute and it goes into the deep pool cell here to the left." Said Matt Montayne, a New Bern Public Works Engineer.
As the water pumps through the wetlands each year, it is estimated the plants will clean about 3,300 pounds of nitrogen and 299 pounds of phosphorus out of stormwater before it is reintroduced into the Neuse River.
Engineers also have planned for bug control.
"You think well they see standing water in a wetland and think there are going to be mosquitos, well that's not necessarily true." said New Bern Director of Public Works Mark Stephens.
Dragonflies are naturally attracted to many of the 25 species of plants now in the wetlands.
"Dragon flies are great because they, and frogs, and other things that are attracted to the wetlands, take care of mosquitoes." Said Stephens.
The City of New Bern did not take on the project alone. It worked in conjunction with North Carolina Ecosystems Enhancement Program and the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
In the future, the city plans to turn the wetlands into a fully fledged park.