USEPA Grants Technical Assistance to Coopers Ferry Partnership to Study SMART Initiative in Camden, N.J.

On July 19, 2012, Coopers Ferry Partnership was one of 17 community partners selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to receive technical assistance as part of its 2011 strategic agenda to renew support for green infrastructure and promote its effective implementation. The Coopers Ferry Partnership will receive $70,000 to advance projects aimed at reducing water pollution in Camden, New Jersey.

EPA’s technical assistance will help Coopers Ferry Partnership evaluate the benefits of the Camden Stormwater Management and Resource Training (SMART) Initiative. The SMART Initiative is a public/private collaboration between the City of Camden, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, New Jersey Tree Foundation, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, community organizations, and Camden residents to restore and revitalize Camden neighborhoods. The objective of the Initiative is to develop a comprehensive network of green infrastructure programs and projects for the City of Camden.

Urban run-off of stormwater from roofs and roadways is a serious problem across the country. Large volumes of polluted stormwater degrade the country’s rivers and lakes. Cities, faced with aging and inadequate stormwater infrastructure are increasingly turning to green infrastructure solutions. Green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavement, uses vegetation and soil to manage rainwater where it falls. By weaving natural processes into the urban environment, green infrastructure provides not only stormwater management, but also flood mitigation, air quality management, and much more. In Camden, four rain gardens were built on the site of an abandoned gas station. Thus, in addition to the stormwater and flood mitigation, the neighborhood traded in a blighted eyesore for a lovely and and productive park. According to EPA, “At a time when so much of our infrastructure is in need of replacement or repair and so few communities can foot the bill, we need resilient and affordable solutions that meet many objectives at once. Green infrastructure is one solution.”

Camden SMART, in the first year, has built eleven raingardens and introduced rain barrels, designed to capture, treat and infiltrate over 800,000 gallons of stormwater in a year. It has plans to build 20- 40 more rain gardens. In addtion, it has organized and hosted educational programs and information sessions on sound stormwater management practices.

The EPA technical assistance will enable Coopers Ferry Partnership to assess the water quality, air quality, brownfield remediation benefits and flooding mitigation potential of the SMART Initiative. The information developed from the SMART experience can provide guidance to other cities faced with urban runoff problems.

Susanne Peticolas is a Director in the Gibbons Real Property & Environmental Department.
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