EPA impressed by Dover’s Berry Brook restoration

Thursday, August 9, 2018 - 7:45pm

Full article can be found here: http://www.fosters.com/news/20180718/epa-impressed-by-dovers-berry-brook-restoration

DOVER — The innovative work by the City of Dover and the UNH Stormwater Center to improve the water quality of Berry Brook received accolades from the newly appointed New England EPA administrator during a recent tour.

The city and the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center, with financial assistance from the Dept. of Environmental Services, have completed numerous projects since developing an action plan a decade ago to improve the brook’s health.

Alexandra Dunn, the EPA regional administrator appointed last November, toured the brook and stormwater treatment innovations that are being perfected by Dover and UNH.

“This is incredible,” said Dunn as she toured the 1,100 feet of Berry Brook that was formerly underground in the area from Central Avenue to Roosevelt Avenue, near the historic Dover Water Works building.

For decades, the section of the brook where Dunn stood ran underground in culverts, and the area was used as a storage area for the Public Works Department. Now the brook runs above ground, wildlife is returning, and the dense urban neighborhood, located just a short distance away, feels farther away than it is.

Berry Brook, just under a mile in length runs from the area of Glennwood and Central Avenue south to the Cocheco River. The brook collects water from about 185 acres that surround the brook, according to the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center.

Most of the watershed is in populated neighborhoods, and for years runoff from the watershed, like excess lawn fertilizer, dog feces, and smog-related pollution, heavy metals and oil from automobiles, and road salt has flowed right into the brook during rain events, according to the Stormwater Center. The primary goal of the restoration efforts is to reduce the amount of stormwater flowing into the waterway during heavy rains.

The tour also highlighted the ways engineers for UNH Stormwater worked with the city to design and implement projects that allowed the collection and treatment of stormwater runoff before it enters Berry Brook, which flows into the Cocheco River, which flows into Great Bay.

But Community Services Deputy Director Bill Boulanger refused to get on board. “I’m not building it if I can’t maintain it,” he said on the tour. The maintenance budget is tight as it is, he said, and he worried about creating projects that had high maintenance costs. Because porous pavement works like a filter, it would have to be intensively cleaned on a regular basis so that sediment wouldn’t clog the pavement where the water drains through it, Boulanger said. Instead, they engineered catch basins to collect stormwater, where the water is treated similar to the porous pavement, but in localized spots that are easy for city crews to maintain.

Dr. James Houle, program director for the Stormwater Center at the University of New Hampshire, said the project had been a learning experience for the center’s engineers as well. Often, engineers think they know what’s best, Houle said. But they don’t always adequately value the experience of the people that implement and maintain the projects like Boulanger.

The city has also built retention ponds, rain gardens and other elements to intercept the runoff and have significantly improved the water quality of the brook, Houle said.

Dunn said the work is “totally visionary.”

Dover City Manager Mike Joyal told the City Council ahead of the visit that the tour also allowed city officials to highlight the community’s active involvement in reducing the number of contaminants that can flow into Great Bay. “We have been putting our money where our mouth is,” Joyal said.