A worker helps to install a rain garden at the West Bloomfield Township Water and Sewer Department on Haggerty Road in West Bloomfield. Rain gardens can help absorb excess water so that rainfall isn’t overloading local sewers.

A worker helps to install a rain garden at the West Bloomfield Township Water and Sewer Department on Haggerty Road in West Bloomfield. Rain gardens can help absorb excess water so that rainfall isn’t overloading local sewers.

Photo provided by Ed Haapala


West Bloomfield installs rain gardens to manage runoff

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 9, 2018

WEST BLOOMFIELD — In order to reduce the flow of rainwater into local sewers and drains, the West Bloomfield Township Water and Sewer Department installed rain gardens on its property on Haggerty Road last fall.

“It’s still a work in progress,” said Garry Simpson, operations and maintenance superintendent with the West Bloomfield Township Water and Sewer Department. “The intent was to make it a showcase for the township so developers can use it as a template when proposing similar construction.” 

Simpson said that the township wasn’t so lucky when local deer visited the property and ate the vegetation, but the department plans to replant the gardens once the weather warms up.

Technically known as vegetated swales, rain gardens are patches of land where vegetation is planted to reduce stormwater volume, reduce runoff and improve water quality filtering stormwater. 

Rain gardens soak up rainwater and other precipitation, which in turn reduces the volume of water sitting on top of the surrounding soil. 

The gardens also improve water quality by filtering the water through the plants, which removes large matter from the water. 

The Water and Sewer Department teamed up with BrightView Landscaping to install the gardens. 

“(Rain gardens) minimize runoff,” said Mark Beitler, a manager with BrightView. “It acts kind of like a sponge; it makes a place for the water to go immediately, and as it gets totally soaked, rain will go into a retention pond. ... It mitigates the big rush of water that could be coming (with rainfall).” 

Beitler helped install two rain gardens for the township. They are both located at West Bloomfield’s Water and Sewer Department, and each is about 400 feet long and 12 feet wide.

The two gardens, like many rain gardens, contain plants and grasses native to the area, like milkweed and fox hedge.

Municipalities have turned to rain gardens to help them control runoff in their communities. 

West Bloomfield doesn’t, but some municipalities have combined storm sewers and sanitary sewers. When there is heavy rain, the rainfall overloads these sewers and officials end up having to release the water into nearby rivers and lakes, causing pollution. 

“If (cities) start using vegetated swales or rain gardens, a lot of this water will be held naturally, so the big volume of water doesn’t hit the sewers,” said Beitler. “It’s not the only contributing factor to polluted beaches, but if we can control these things when we have to release into public waters, that would be huge.”

Simpson said he would like to continue working on the rain gardens and is looking into getting barrels to collect other runoff. 

He said that the department also has a water retention basin and rock dams that are newly constructed. 

Using the department as an example, local residents who have a lot of water on their property after a rainfall can consider rain gardens as an option for their home.