We’ll Take the Pond, Hold the Scum

As students (or staff, as it were), Henry Ford Community College requires a great deal of work from us, but what you may not know is that the college is working hard for you in a myriad of ways that may have never crossed your mind. Across the campus, changes both large and small are being made to minimalize the negative impact human settling has had on the local ecosystem. From the subtle addition of waterless urinals in some men’s bathrooms to the more conspicuous construction of a man-made pond, there are things being done behind the scenes to make the community a better place.

Over the course of years and years of human settling, many of Michigan's natural safeguards against environmental damage have been depleted to the point of inefficiency or, in some cases, outright destroyed. The effect of industrialization on the environment has become a major source of concern, as highlighted by the growing "Green Movement" and a global search for cleaner energy sources. One of our most pressing issues here at home is the contamination of the River Rouge. A number of factors contribute to this pollution, but one of the simplest is the reality that the water being drained into the Rouge just isn’t clean to begin with.

With the clearing of trees to make way for development within the state, formerly untouched land is now paved over or built upon, and rainwater that would otherwise have been filtered through soil before making its way slowly to the river currently falls on asphalt. When this happens, the water mixes with whatever harsh chemicals and debris have been left there before being released directly into the Rouge via huge drainage pipes. This creates a major problem for two reasons: the constant dumping of dirty water prevents the river from having a chance to stabilize itself and the volume with which water is drained into the river after heavy storming causes the water levels to rise with dangerous speed. If it all sounds unclean and harmful, that’s because it is, but never fear. There are things in motion beneath your feet to reign in the level of damage this causes.

Literally.

While last year’s vast parking lot construction created a fair amount of chatter, there was a concurrent project that went largely undetected in Lot F. Swirl concentrators were installed deep in the ground beneath the parking lot. Swirl concentrators are massive pools, for lack of a better word, that create artificial vortexes which separate water from oily substances, sediment, and larger debris. The purer water is then diverted into the river after a short holding period, while the sludge is retained underground to be collected annually and disposed of as hazardous waste. The concentrators, of which there are eight total, have a capacity of roughly 450,000 gallons and span the entire lot.

Though this is impressive on its own, the college went even further in its efforts to preserve the River Rouge.

If you are prone to random strolling while on campus, or just prone to getting lost, the man-made pond at the rear of campus behind the Technology building may or may not be news, but its purpose probably is. In an effort to curtail the rate water is drained into the river and to further prevent flooding, the pond was dug with the specific aim of catching rainwater to be fed to the Rouge at a more natural rate of drainage than provided by typical methods. All in all, HFCC spent more than four million dollars on the installation of these water retention systems, and it was money well-spent.

We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what Henry Ford Community College has in store down the road to make the world around it a better place. Construction on an addition to the Science building is slated to begin next January, an addition which will host, among other things, a “green roof” and a rain garden. The green roof takes its name from the fact that it will be home to a rooftop garden consisting of vegetation that will absorb some measure of rainwater for nourishment. In heavy storming, the water not caught by the plants on the roof will run off into the rain garden. This rain garden will be filled only with plants that can survive long stretches of time without water, such as those that pass between major rainfalls, and suffer no ill-effect from a sudden dousing.

After previously receiving a DTE grant that funded the planting of 300 trees, the college was inspired to plant an additional 30 trees yearly. That means cleaner air, cleaner water, and more shade. Does HFCC have anything else on the plate for the little environmentalist in us all?
Well, let’s just call this the appetizer.

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