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Marymount Establishes Rain Garden with Dominion Foundation Grant

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Behind Marymount University’s Reinsch Library on the Main Campus, the landscape is changing. Concerned about polluted water runoff from rooftops and parking lots, the University is creating a rain garden that will filter the runoff -- purifying the water on its way to the Donaldson Run watershed.

The rain garden is made possible by a $20,000 Dominion Foundation Education Grant and support from the Marymount University Sustainability Fund. Under the direction of Dr. Barbara Kreutzer, Marymount associate professor of Biology, it is a cooperative effort with the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services and the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District. Dr. Asad Rouhi, an urban conservation engineer with the Conservation District, did the site analysis and technical design; Christin Jolicoeur, with the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Management in the Arlington Department of Environmental Services, was the native plant consultant.

Strategically located to intercept and collect the water runoff, the garden will reduce erosion and sediment load as the water filters gradually through layers of gravel and soil and is cleansed. The rain garden will mimic natural hydrological processes found in native woods and grasslands. Native plantings, which are well-suited to the climate and resistant to many endemic pests and diseases, have been selected for their ability to absorb and filter water.

Because of an under drain pipe which runs the length of the garden, Marymount is using herbaceous plants and low shrubs with relatively small to moderate root systems that will not aggressively spread and will provide year-round color, as well as wildlife habitat. Plantings include Virginia sweetspire, Virginia switch grass, cinnamon and royal fern, blue flag iris, bee balm, common rush, mountain mint, coneflower, red cardinal flower, great blue lobelia, and white turtlehead.

The rain garden is also an easily accessible research site for Marymount students, as well as local high school students. Research projects in the garden will assess the interception, infiltration and bioremediation on soil water factors such as fertilizer phosphate and nitrate run-off, petroleum product and coliform bacteria contamination, and sediment load from erosion. In addition, Marymount’s Biology and Math departments are doing an interdisciplinary research project to develop a predictive model for evaluating storm water management effectiveness as seasonal parameters change. And, the rain garden research will generate data to support ongoing research that evaluates the storm water management ability of specific rain garden plants. Results will be used to gauge the cost-effectiveness of the project and document rain garden effectiveness to address quality assurance and quality control issues. Art, graphic design, and video production classes will also make use of the rain garden for various projects.

Marymount has an ongoing focus on sustainability and is excited to add this rain garden, which will help keep the Donaldson Run watershed healthy.

The University is establishing a memorial plaque next to the rain garden to recognize memorial plant donations. Those interested can make a donation online.
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The Dominion Foundation is dedicated to improving the physical, social and economic well being of the communities served by Dominion companies, including Dominion Virginia Power and Dominion North Carolina Power. For more information about Dominion, visit the company's website at www.dom.com.
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PHOTO CAPTIONS
PHOTO 1
– Dr. Barbara Kreutzer (center), Marymount associate professor of Biology, guides Biology students Ali Aziz ’13 and Zoe Saulsgiver ’13 in the planting of Red Cardinal flowers, as classmates look on.

PHOTO 2 – excavation for the rain garden

PHOTO 3 – rain garden with construction complete, awaiting plantings