By MIRANDA BAINES
A new rain garden is just a component of an “ecosystem” on the Tarboro campus of Edgecombe Community College (ECC).
The Pamlico-Tar River Foundation and ECC partnered to install the rain garden outside the Havens Building on campus Monday morning.
“It allows any pollutants coming off roofs or parking lots to perk down through the ground and it filters out pollutants,” said George Anderson, the college’s sustainability coordinator. “It’s all part of one plan. What we’re trying to do is improve the water quality of Holly Branch, which feeds into Hendricks Creek, which in turn feeds into the Tar River.”
In November 2012, a 1240-foot nature trail opened on ECC’s campus in November, creating what Anderson terms an “ecosystem” ripe for natural exploration. The creeks that feed into the Tar River are part of that ecosystem.
“When rainwater comes down, we’re treating it to make the wetlands better,” said Matt Butler, environmental projects manager for the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, of the rain garden.
Environment science instructor at ECC, David Knowles, said without filtration, pollution contained in the runoff could alter the microbes, amphibians and plants that live in and around the river. He said small-scale projects such as ECC’s rain garden could help solve the problem of storm water runoff.
The ecosystem project is funded by a $50,000 “ecosystem enhancement grant” from the State Department of Justice.
While the rain garden has been installed, the ecosystem project is far from completion. Butler said the Foundation would like to install two more wetlands on the community college campus in the future. He said the project fits in with the Foundation’s mission of being an “advocate for the Pamlico-Tar River watershed.”
Anderson called the ecosystem on ECC’s campus a “living lab.” Knowles brought four of his students out to help install the rain garden.
“There’s a lab component to our course, and one of the lab exercises is campus environment. Since this is going on this semester, we’re using this as a focus for our labs,” Knowles said. “They can see that it (science) is not just theoretical, there’s applied work that has to be done.”
Butler said the environmental educational component one of the main reasons why the Foundation wanted to install the rain garden on ECC’s campus. The Foundation calls that component “train the trainer.”
“We can teach teachers about storm water best management practices and teach them what they look like,” Butler said. Those teachers, in turn, can educate their students about those practices.