Matthew Bertrand, a RainSmart coordinator and a landscape designer with the Friends of the Rouge, discusses rain gardens June 16 at the Plymouth District Library, 223 S. Main St., as part of the group’s RainSmart program.

Matthew Bertrand, a RainSmart coordinator and a landscape designer with the Friends of the Rouge, discusses rain gardens June 16 at the Plymouth District Library, 223 S. Main St., as part of the group’s RainSmart program.

Photo by Donna Agusti


‘Dirty’ water runoff is Rouge’s biggest problem, group says

Friends group launches RainSmart campaign

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published June 20, 2018

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METRO DETROIT — Throughout the summer, many residents spend their precious time and money making sure their lawn looks green and lush, but volunteers with the Friends of the Rouge say your lawn can have a deeper purpose beyond its looks. 

Earlier this month, the Friends of the Rouge debuted their RainSmart campaign, which offers services to help homeowners control water runoff.  

Friends of the Rouge is a nonprofit organization founded to raise awareness about the need to preserve the Rouge River in southeast Michigan. 

According to Matthew Bertrand, the group’s RainSmart coordinator and a landscape designer with the Friends of the Rouge, “dirty” water runoff is another way of saying stormwater runoff  —  rainfall that flows off surfaces such as roads, driveways and parking lots and does not get filtered into the ground. 

“Dirty water runoff is one of the biggest problems of the Rouge,” Bertrand said. 

What makes the water “dirty,” Bertrand said, are fertilizers and pesticides coming off lawns; oil and debris from cars; and even natural elements such as mud, sand and dirt. 

Too much dirty water running off during a storm, Bertrand said, can result in flooded basements, flooded streets and dirty creeks. 

Not only can the water quality in local bodies of water suffer from dirty water, Bertrand said, but it can also deplete the wildlife that calls the water and its surrounding area home. 

There is a solution, however. 

“Our main solution is getting our community ‘RainSmart’ by having people understand what is happening at their homes and taking steps to solve the problems,” he said. “Give your lawn a job. It should be soaking up as much water as possible.”

Residents are encouraged to participate in the RainSmart challenge by visiting therouge.org/rainsmart and tracking how rain and melting snow flow across their property. Those who use the service will be entered into a drawing for a free rain barrel and a RainSmart home visit. 

Part of the RainSmart campaign is to encourage residents to make rain gardens on their property, small gardens designed to withstand and take advantage of extreme amounts of water.

Bertrand said rain gardens can help control puddles, keep basements dry and even attract some wildlife. 

“People often think, ‘I don’t know if I want wildlife like skunks and raccoons and stuff,’” Bertrand said. “But (rain gardens) are actually good for your lawn.”

The Friends of the Rouge are offering RainSmart consultations through which people can use a digital coach to learn how to improve their lawn, Bertrand said. 

The organization is offering RainSmart workshops, called the “Living Lawns and (Rain) Gardens” program, in which residents can learn more about installing rain gardens and their benefits. For more information on that program, visit therouge.org/liv
inglawns. 

Brandy Siedlaczek, stormwater manager for the city of Southfield, said the city has made it a goal to implement more green infrastructure in recent improvement projects.

Specifically, the city recently installed a stormwater project near the Rouge River at the intersection of Telegraph Road and Civic Center Drive. 

“The stormwater project there captures the runoff from Civic Center Drive with a little step pool that was put in place to treat and filter out pollutants,” she said. “Prior, it was just a big concrete shoot that just conveyed water to the river without treating it, which was the traditional practice.”

Siedlaczek said the city is looking to the future when it comes to treating stormwater. 

“As we look at our infrastructure and do capital improvement projects, we try to incorporate green infrastructure to improve water quality, rather than the traditional method of getting water off the road as quickly as possible.”

To learn more, visit therouge.com/rainsmart.

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