Stormwater project is honored

Johnson County Community College won the silver Edison Green Award for its sustainability efforts. The honor was announced Tuesday, April 5, in New York City and Dr. Jay Antle, director, Center for Sustainability, accepted the prize.

The Edison Green Award recognizes an organization’s commitment to developing sustainable solutions and green business models. It is designed as a platform to recognize efforts to reduce participating community’s carbon footprint, create green collar jobs through new innovation methods and improve community health and self sufficiency.

Judging criteria included societal impact, marketplace innovation; marketplace success, technological innovation and market structure innovation. In 2010, the city of Greensburg, Kan., won the gold award for its green rebuilding efforts. This year’s gold award winner was Preserve, a company that makes stylish, high performance, eco-friendly products for the home.

The college's sustainability efforts include the stormwater treatment project on the southeast corner of the campus. JCCC completed its $700,000 green stormwater treatment project in August, paid for by stimulus money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and a 20 percent match by the college, including funds from a student green fee.

The project allows water runoff from 502,500 square feet of impervious parking and driving surfaces to drain to a constructed wetland on the south side of the parking areas. Before entering the wetland, the stormwater runoff filters through a sequence of treatment systems, planted with native vegetation, designed to treat diverse pollutants, including manufactured filtration tanks, bioswales, bioretention cells and a rain garden.

“The process both filters the water from pollutants and slows the release of stormwater into the city’s stormwater system,” said Jay Antle, executive director, JCCC Center for Sustainability, who secured funds for the project.

Previously unfiltered rainwater, containing vehicle oil and residue, would go into drains around the four parking lots, enter the city’s stormwater pipes and dump into Indian Creek.

“This is one of the most ambitious green stormwater projects in the Kansas City metropolitan area,” Antle said. “Our engineers with Burns & McDonnell and lead designer Scott Bingham, landscape architect, Bowman Bowman Novick, are excited about making this a demonstration project for others in the area to look at and emulate.”

 The wetland, incorporating native plants to promote ecological activity and provide habitat for animals and beneficial microbes, will be used for student education and for the community as a recreational and learning environment. Students will test the quality of water as the water goes through the entire system, and an interpretive sign describes the system to the public.

Two rows of limestone seats are available as an outdoor classroom, and a pervious concrete walkway lines the wetland perimeter.

The wetland is at the site of an old farm pond that was later converted to a detention basin. By expanding the basin’s footprint and adding gravel, topsoil and native plantings adaptable to such conditions, water is allowed to stand under a layer of gravel to avoid the problems of an exposed pool of water and provide one last cleaning before the water leaves the campus and makes its way to Indian Creek.

“The project is significant in the metropolitan area by the mere fact of the amount of surface area addressed and by the number of best management practices utilized at a location accessible to the public,” Bingham said.

Agri Drain Corporation donated a series of wick drains, specifically designed so as not to plug with debris, as field-inlets for water. Native and drought-tolerant plants were custom grown by KAT Nurseries, Olathe.

Depending on funding availability, Antle says the college would like to pursue stormwater treatment projects at other sites.