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2009 News Releases

New Longwood stormwater pond continues sustainability efforts

October 12, 2009

Longwood's stormwater pond Longwood's new stormwater pond was designed to control quantity and quality of stormwater runoff.

Longwood University's sustainability efforts have continued with a new stormwater pond on the edge of campus that will enhance the quality of the water flowing into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The stormwater pond behind Bedford Hall at the corner of Race and Franklin streets will help the university to meet state regulations governing nutrients in the stormwater that flows through campus. The pond will have 28 types of plants and trees, which will act like a natural wetland and absorb the nutrients in the water. The nutrient monitored most closely is phosphorus, which nurtures algae growth in the Chesapeake Bay.

"We're not trying to only control the quantity of stormwater runoff; we're trying to also control the quality of the water by reducing the total number of nutrients leaving the campus," said Jerry Jerome, Longwood's facilities planner. "As the plants grow, especially in warmer weather, they'll absorb more of the nutrients. In essence, the water is cleaned up. Although this pond doesn't decrease the total volume of stormwater, which is rain that doesn't soak into the ground, it allows water to leave the pond at a restricted rate and decreases the chance of flooding downstream."

The pond was completed and filled with water in August. The site, which had been a vacant lot with scrub trees, includes a deck and a walkway, benches, lighting, three informational signs, and a fountain in the middle of the pond, which acts as an aerator to add oxygen to the water. Marsh plants are visible in the water. The pond, which is shallow except for the middle where it's approximately three feet deep, is enclosed with ornamental fencing in some places and wooden fencing elsewhere.

"This project has turned a plain site into a nice campus feature," said Jerome. "I've been told that a lot of people like to look down on the pond from the top floor of the (nearby) Center for Communication Studies and Theatre."

The stormwater entering the pond is temporarily stored so the plants can absorb the excess nutrients. This process reduces the amount of nutrients infiltrating into groundwater or being discharged with water traveling across the land surface to nearby Gross Creek, also called Gross's Branch. Channels upstream of the pond were designed to capture and convey stormwater from the southern and western areas of campus. A wetland like this was considered the best way to mitigate the negative effects of land development on the hydrology of Longwood and Gross Creek, which flows into the Appomattox River, then into the James River, and finally into the Chesapeake Bay.

Water trickles into the pond through two rock-lined channels on a hill on the Griffin Boulevard side. The rocks slow the water down to prevent erosion. The campus stormwater drain system starts at the "outflow structure," on the Race Street side, which is a concrete cylinder covered with a metal grate.

The pond was built at the natural collecting point for a large portion of the stormwater coming onto campus. Most of the stormwater from the main part of campus runs into an underground stormwater drain built along the route of a creek that was covered over years ago as construction progressed on campus. Most of the stormwater leaves campus through this storm drain, which is large. It's 48 inches in diameter at the pond outflow structure, then it becomes 60 inches by the time it reaches Brock Commons, then it goes under the parking garage, then under the south side of the dining hall, then under Iler Field where it's 72 inches, and by the time it reaches Venable Street it's a concrete box seven feet by six feet. Longwood's stormwater drains out under Fourth Street between Longwood Landings and Fourth Street Motors.

As Longwood builds more buildings, there is less space to absorb stormwater, and it doesn't sink into the ground as much, so more water goes into the stormwater drain. State regulations limit the amount of nutrients in this water. Nitrogen and phosphorus contribute to algae blooms in open water, which kill fish. The pond is part of an overall effort by everyone, including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to control the nutrients that flow into the state's water.

In 2007 an engineering company, the Timmons Group of Richmond, was hired to develop a stormwater management plan for Longwood. "They came up with a plan that said there were two ways to do this: building by building, in which case you would need dedicated space around each building, or through a single campuswide approach, which was chosen," Jerome said. "The stormwater management plan is in consonance with two of the sustainability goals of the campus master plan, Vision 2020: to 'reduce stormwater runoff' and to 'reduce stormwater contaminants leaving the site.'"

Longwood will have to reduce nutrients even further, as the State will soon adopt new and more stringent regulations. Timmons is looking at new and different techniques to control stormwater runoff. Three possible ways are: capture and re-use for irrigation; replacing non-permeable surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt and building roofs, with permeable surfaces; and, potentially, more stormwater retention ponds. The stormwater management plan, which Timmons already is updating, will also address future construction projects, such as the Bedford addition. The updated plan will focus even more on the campuswide approach to controlling stormwater runoff.

The pond was built with State funds (from the Educational & General Fund), not with university funds or through student fees. Construction was done by Enviroscape Inc. of Mechanicsville. Some $938,000 was budgeted for the project, which ended up coming in under budget, which includes, in addition to construction, the expenses of Longwood buying the land and the cost of the stormwater management plan and the design, both by the Timmons Group.

"The pond is an excellent example of Longwood being responsible stewards of the environment," said J.W. Wood, director of Capital Planning & Construction. "It's a good thing to do, and it's the right thing to do."