The Clean Water Blog

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Working With Students to Protect Our Water

One of the best things about working for Clean Water Action is the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful people on a variety of issues that protect our water and reduce pollution. A highlight this year was working with students and teachers at the Connecticut River Academy to design and build a rain garden that will reduce stormwater runoff into the Connecticut River.

Thanks to Clean Water Action and the Conservation Law Foundation, a citizen suit against an autobody shop in East Hartford for pollution to the Hockanum River resulted in funding for a mitigation project in the area. We were thrilled to partner with Michele Saulis, Environmental Theme Coach, and students in the fall of 2018 to discuss the idea. Victoria, a senior student, jumped at the chance to lead the initiative with the support of Michele and other faculty.

Over the fall and winter, students learned about the value of rain gardens, rain garden design and participated in a trip to UCONN to learn more from a leading environmental professor on the importance of design, drainage, types of plants and all the engineering that goes into an effective rain garden.

In late winter and early spring, appropriate sites for the garden were identified and Victoria and the students met with planning officials at the school and in the town of East Hartford to obtain the necessary permission. Clean Water Action attended a class where students were required to study the rain garden, native plants, and pick which plant species would be best suited for the chosen site. It was wonderful to see the amazing story boards with the student’s choices and location of the plants that would be best suited for the needs of pollinators and minimizing stormwater runoff!

Finally, the big day arrived! Victoria and the students worked with a local nursery to obtain the chosen plants and worked with the school’s groundskeeper to layout and dig the garden. Michelle recruited incoming 9th grade students to come to the campus and help plant. The students learned from the groundskeeper about how to carefully get the plants out of their pots, care for the roots, lay out the design and then dig the holes and plant. We learned from the engineers about why the stormwater drain had to be raised up to maximize rainfall going to the plants before it overflows to the drain itself. It was a beautiful day and wonderful to see this student led project happen. We can't wait for more projects like this!