Wittenberg Students Team Up With Springfield To Fight Storm Water Problem

Dec 24, 2013

Wittenberg professor Sarah Fortner and Springfield Stormwater Coordinator Sky Schelle, are working with students to develop rain gardens in the city and on campus.
Credit Zeb Reichert / WYSO

Wittenberg geology students and the city of Springfield have paired up to reduce pollution in area rivers and streams.  The partnership is expected to save the city money and serve as a learning experience for students.

Buck Creek cuts through the middle of Springfield. Trees line the banks and in the warmer months, kayaking and other activities are common recreation. But there’s a problem. During heavy rains, the sewage system gets overwhelmed.

"So we get overflows of that untreated sewage into Buck Creek and as you can imagine that is a water quality nightmare," says Sky Schelle.

Schelle is the storm water coordinator for Springfield. He says that’s why the city has partnered with Wittenberg to create rain gardens made up of plants with deep roots that soak up water, which will help get rid of pollutants. The city is hoping it can turn vacant lots into these rain gardens.

"So there’s, right now there's hundreds and hundreds of vacant lots in Springfield and these need to be re-purposed somehow. And what we're proposing to do is re-purpose this to collect and store storm water," Schelle says.

The rain garden project could save Springfield millions of dollars in waste management costs. Wittenberg Geology professor Sarah Fortner says her students are gaining hands-on experience, and that the work could have an impact beyond Clark County.

"This is part of a larger problem that's going on nationally too," Fortner says. "And so exploring this sort of community scale project is really a good way to solve the problem locally, but then also think about how you can expand that into other communities."

Fortner is seeking funding to continue and expand their environmental work. Meanwhile, Springfield will have a consultant look at improving its current sewage system.