South Bend has a combined sewer, meaning our stormwater mixes with our sewage in the same sewer system before being sent to the Wastewater Treatment Plant to be cleaned. But keep in mind, our sewer system only has a certain capacity. When we receive a lot of rain, the sewers fill up and begin to overflow. The only place for the excess sewer water to go is the St. Joseph River.
In the past 24 hours, our city has received just under 8 inches of rain in an historic rainfall event causing major flooding and damage. This rainfall, 8 inches, is record-breaking. Just imagine how much combined sewage was dumped into the river last night. *Hint, hint: a lot.* But this happens during other less significant rainfall events too. Keep in mind that South Bend is a big place – so if we get just one inch of rain, all over the city, that’s a whole lot of water (meaning a whole lot of sewage dumped into the river)! What’s the best way to deal with this?
Rain gardens. They are simple, inexpensive, green ways to combat South Bend’s C.S.O. problem. They capture runoff water from your roof and, instead of letting the water drain into the streets and into the sewers, they route the water into your rain garden where the water is filtered and sent into the groundwater. Rain gardens are also green alternatives to spending millions of dollars on underground grey infrastructure. They provide inexpensive, visually appealing solutions that beautify the community.
The Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem can install rain gardens in the Southeast neighborhood (the area bordered by Ewing, Sample, Michigan, & Miami) at no cost to the homeowner. This is especially beneficial to the area because this part of South Bend has a lot of clay soil. Clay soil does not percolate water well and therefore contributes to contaminated runoff into Bowman Creek and ultimately the St. Joseph River.
If you are interested in a free rain garden or want to learn more, let us know here!