Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program exceeds 2011 goals

The Save the Rain program has set up 51 projects so far in 2011 to capture stormwater across the city as part of their Project 50 initiative.

During the Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection open house Saturday, Save the Rain’s program team announced the success of Project 50. Presented last March by County Executive Joanie Mahoney, this ambitious plan set the goal of constructing 50 green infrastructure projects before the end of 2011.

According to Madison Quinn, program coordinator for Save the Rain, green infrastructure refers to projects that focus on capturing stormwater rather than on water treatment. “There's been green roofs, rain gardens, cistern systems, a lot of porous pavement … It’s pretty great!” she said smiling.

“2011 is what we’ve been calling our banner year, meaning the best year,” said Khris Dodson, public education and outreach coordinator for Save the Rain. Dodson said that part of the reason why they say this is because of the ambitious goal setting on Project 50.

Moreover, the team exceeded the expectations for the plan. So far, they have 51 projects that have either been completed, in the construction phase, or under contract to start construction, according to Bj Adigun, program coordinator at CH2M HILL Syracuse. CH2M HILL works as a consultant for the County Executive office. He said they are expecting to add at least 10 more projects before the end of the year.

Some signature developments of Project 50 have been the installation of a 60,000 square foot green roof at the Onondaga County Convention Center. It will capture over one million gallons of stormwater every year. Also, the water reuse system at the War Memorial will capture rainwater to make ice for the Syracuse Crunch hockey team, and the construction of a wetland treatment system in Harbor Brook will remove pollutants from sewer overflows released into this tributary during heavy rains.

The open house Saturday offered visitors not only an update on the work of Save the Rain, but also an exhibition of the partners and contractors that got on board with the county to make green improvements. Demonstrations of porous pavement, 3D digital models of the treatment facilities being constructed, and even live fish and snails from Onondaga Lake were on display.

Additionally, there was a one-hour tour around the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant that can give full treatment to 126 million gallons per day. Visitors learned that on a rainy day, more than 170 million gallons of water come to the plant. The extra 45 million gallons of water overflow receive a superficial treatment before dumping it to Onondaga Lake and still causing contamination, something that Save the Rain is trying to avoid through Project 50.

“The fact that we’re still dumping contaminated water into it is kind of disappointing,” said Daniel Nauen, resident of the city. He was at the open house with his daughter and his father and they were getting rain barrels to try to capture stormwater in their home and reduce sewer overflow. “I guess it’s my drop in the bucket,” he said.

 “2011 was really going to be our big push and our first year to be implementing a whole lot of projects as part of Save the Rain,” Adigun said. “I thought it would take a lot longer to get to the point that we are now.”

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