CASTLEGAR – Students in Selkirk College’s School of Environment & Geomatics took a break from classroom activities earlier this month to pick up spades, wheelbarrows and garden gloves.
“We’re building bioswales!” said Recreation, Fish & Wildlife (RFW) Program student Heidi Korens as she headed into the Castlegar Campus parking lot hauling a load of compost.
Supported by the college’s Sustainability Committee, the facilities and maintenance team, and senior management, the parking lot bioswale project is a unique effort to protect local water systems from sediment and chemical runoff from urban environments.
“A bioswale works to capture, localize and accumulate stormwater runoff, and to prevent or delay it entering into the greater watershed,” explained Applied Ecology and Biology instructor Doris Hausleitner, who organized students in both the RFW Program and Integrated Environmental Planning Program to help execute the project.
Soil and vegetation are the key elements in the process. Runoff water from the parking lot is channelled towards the bioswales, the soil captures and accumulates chemical and sediment contaminants, and vegetation utilizes the accumulated water which prevents it from escaping to the nearby Columbia River.
“Most of the plants we chose for this project can be found locally,” said Zak Bunting, a second-year RFW Program student.
Selkirk College hired local engineering firm WSA Engineering Limited to design and draft the bioswale project. Selkirk College Facilities & Maintenance tradesperson Mike Geisler acted as a project manager with MH Landscaping carrying out the construction. Special materials such as engineered soil, local “Gaia green earth” from Grand Forks and “coco” matting were used in the construction. The composted material was donated by the City of Castlegar with the local government expressing interest in using the Selkirk College bioswale plans for their own construction projects.
“I think this project has great general appeal,” said RFW Program student Beth Newbery. “It’s a great way to green-up our dirty parking lot and make it look nice too.”
The project broke new ground at Selkirk College and if all goes well, it could be repeated around the community and region.
“I’d like to see this project replicated en masse amongst commercial and public properties,” said RFW Program student Dani Crowe. “It’s a great way to help mitigate the impacts of our dirty cars using an element of their dirty infrastructure. Let’s do this… it’s 2017!”
Find out more about the Selkirk College School of Environment & Geomatics at http://selkirk.ca/school/environment-geomatics