The city will receive $300,000 worth of green infrastructure projects – rain gardens and water storage cisterns – to reduce storm water impact on the antiquated municipal combined sewer system which overflows during downpours and snowmelts discharging raw sewage into the Passaic River.
Sandra Meola, spokeswoman for the New York and New Jersey Baykeeper, said 15 sites have been identified for green projects throughout the city. She identified School 28, John F. Kennedy High School, and School 4 which will receive rain gardens, cisterns, and tree plantings over the next 12 months.
There’s also water capturing projects planned for Overlook Park and Eastside Park.
The projects are aimed at reducing impervious surface space in the city. She estimates 70-percent of the city is impervious surface – driveways, parking lots, pavements, roads, sidewalks – which results in much of the rainwater pouring into the combined sewer system.
“You don’t have enough green space,” she told council members on Tuesday evening. Meola, who also represents Paterson Storm Water Management Resource Training (SMART), a two-year-old organization that brings together non-profits and government entities, with a mission to better manage storm water through green infrastructure projects, said the cisterns will be similar to the one behind School 5 which collects 2,500 gallons of water that’s then used to water plants at the Elysian Fields Community Garden.
Though the cistern will be similar, they will be smaller, said Jeremiah Bergstrom, research project manager with Rutgers Cooperative Extension which is undertaking the design and planning of the green projects.
“We’re trying to duplicate that effort,” he said referring to the School 5 green project. “We’re looking at smaller efforts.” The cistern at School 5 was funded as a demonstration project by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC). It’s not yet clear how many gallons of water will be collected through all the green projects.
Bergstrom said he did not have a figure yet, but will in the next week. Council members appeared mostly supportive of the group’s effort.
Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman, asked if the water captured has to be treated. The group intends to install a cistern at the Department of Public Works parking lot at Eastside Park for water re-use.
Bergstrom said the water collected is not for potable use. He said the water does not have to be treated, but the storage units are flushed periodically.
Jackson wondered if rain water can be captured for irrigational use because many local parks lack sprinkler systems. Bergstrom that will require much bigger investments in the green projects.
Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, asked if the plan includes installation of rain gardens in the city’s 50 plus schools. Bergstrom said there’s not enough funding to do projects at the more than 50 schools.
Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman, wanted the city’s defunct Environmental Commission revived, to play a role in the green infrastructure development. He said he sent a letter to mayor Jose “Joey” Torres a month ago to make appointments and make the board functional again.
The projects are being funded through a $500,000 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said Bergstrom when Jackson asked about funding source. $200,000 is going to Rutgers for planning, design, and coordination, said Bergstrom.