Neighborhood residents get jobs cleaning our our rivers and lakes

PUSH’s newest venture, PUSH Blue, is a major initiative dedicated to promote green infrastructure, storm water management, and green jobs in PUSH’s Green Development Zone (GDZ) on Buffalo’s West Side.

PUSH Blue’s main goal is to combat Combined Sewer Overflow on Buffalo’s West Side. The city’s antiquated sewer system is a Combined System (see picture below). Its pipes carry both sewage from buildings and water that runs off of streets and buildings during rain showers. During especially heavy rainstorms, which are common in Buffalo, rainwater will overload the system. A mixture of water and sewage then “overflows” directly into the area’s rivers–including the Niagara River–and Lake Erie.

Combined Sewer Systems, like that in Buffalo, use the same pipes for sewage and water that runs off streets and buildings during big rainstorms. As this picture shows, when there is no rain, sewage leaves buildings and heads toward the sewage treatment plant as it should. But when there is a severe rainstorm, the huge amount of water from streets and roofs overloads the system. A mixture of water and sewage pours into emergency pipes that empty directly into our rivers. This creates a toxic environments for people, fish, water birds and other animals. It forces area beaches to close and threatens our sources of drinking water.

PUSH Blue is dedicated to decreasing the amount of rain water that enters the Combined System and decreasing the likelihood of Combined Sewer Overflow. To do this PUSH Blue has hired a crew of local residents to work on 25 Stormwater Management Projects in the Green Development Zone (GDZ) over the next two years.

What are Stormwater Management Projects? And how do they work? The best way to decrease the amount of stormwater that enters the Combined Sewer System is to make the water flow directly into the soil rather than into the sewer pipes.

There are several ways to do this. One is to capture rainwater from our roofs and gutters in rain barrels (you will notice more an more of these barrels at the end of gutter downspouts in the Green Development Zone).

Even more effective solutions include planting raingardens and installing green roofs and permeable pavements.

Raingardens absorb rainwater from storms directly into the soil. They are often planted low compared to the surrounding area to capture as much rainwater as possible. They contain especially permeable materials like gravel and they use native plants with deep roots. Both of these create channels for water deep into the soil. All of these simple technologies mean less water in the sewer pipes and a decreased likelihood of Combined Overflow into our rivers.

Green roofs are similar to raingardens, except that they are gardens that grow on rooftops. Special fittings on rooftops allow homeowners to grow water-loving plants on their roofs which absorb rainwater before it goes into the gutters.

Permeable pavements are made of materials like paving stones or gravel that allow rainwater to filter directly into the soil below–as opposed to running off into the streets and entering the Combined System.

In another project, PUSH blue staff broke up an abandoned parking lot that served as a gathering place for rainwater and transformed it into a rain garden.

The PUSH Blue crew!