Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, is working to protect drinking water supplies in the Quinnipiac River Watershed. Our unique strategy is to capture the rain that runs off roofs and parking lots and allow it to soak into the ground naturally. By capturing rain runoff and redirecting it back into the ground, groundwater resources are replenished and pollutants like chemical fertilizers, waste oil, and heavy metals are kept out of streams, rivers, and the Long Island Sound. Our projects will be located where groundwater is a major source of public water supply serving the towns of Southington, Meriden, Wallingford or Cheshire.
In order to capture the rain that runs off of roofs, rushes into storm drains and races into streams and rivers, we will collaborate with town(s) and residents to build large and small scale rain gardens. Rain gardens are slightly sunken depressions built in well-draining soil that are planted with beautiful combinations of bushes, perennials or small trees. The rain runoff from a nearby roof is directed into this rain garden where the soil and plants absorb and filter the water before it seeps downward into underground aquifers.
An example of a residential rain garden.
A map displaying the Quinnipiac River watershed.
In addition to increased groundwater infiltration, one of the project's other main goals is to inform and educate residents of the Quinnipiac River Watershed about the damaging effects of stormwater runoff and the various ways they can work to mitigate them. Through contact with Southington residents during our initial site visits, meetings with community representatives and groups, and volunteer recruitement, Save the Sound has been getting the word out there about the benefits of rain gardens and green infrastructure and the steps that are being taken throughout the watershed.
In addition to many dedicated and hard-working volunteers, the project has been lucky to have the help of many local organizations:
Funding is provided by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) through the Quinnipiac River Groundwater Natural Resources Damages Fund.
The goal of this ambitious project is to capture and infiltrate stormwater run-off from 50,000 square feet of rooftop or parking lot space, which requires the construction of approximately 8,333 square feet of bioretention area.
Ideal locations are highly visible municipally-owned buildings such as a schools, town halls, libraries, or community centers. However, privately owned buildings (e.g. schools, hospitals, colleges etc.) will be considered as well. In order to meet the project goal of recharging drinking water aquifers, the location of the bioretention site(s) should be within Aquifer Protection Areas (but not within 200 feet of a drinking water well head) or within Stratified Drift areas. A majority of the funding needed for construction of the bioretention project(s) will be supplied by Save the Sound through grant funds received from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Save the Sound is currently working with the Town of Southington to plan and design two large bioretention projects. The first is located at their Community Center and has the potential to include above-ground bioretention areas, the installation of permeable pavement in the parking area, and underground infiltration equipment. The second project is located at Southington High School. Current plans are targeting a median strip in the school's main parking lot for its potential to capture runoff that would normally flow into existing storm drains.
You can participate in the large bioretention project in a number of ways:
Save the Sound's Rain Garden Program has been a resounding success. Kicked-off in early May, the program has yielded 9 residential rain gardens in Southington, captured over 6600 square feet of roof runoff, and has seen over 60 volunteers contributing almost 300 hours of time.
Rain Gardens were installed at the homes of:
Jennifer and Michael Kahn - 1218 Woodruff Street
Matt Shepherd - 112 Skyline Drive
Kimberly and Warren Sciola - 296 Harness Drive
Elizabeth Johnson and Will Maurer - 258 Curtiss Street
Ray and Linda Roy - 4 Tanglewood Drive
Marie and Matt Lemay - 210 Hobart Street
Ayu and Gary Webster - 60 Tanglewood Drive
George and Peggy Pohorilak - 1297 East Street
Steve and Beth Wood - 120 Forest Lane
Check out our video!
If you'd like to find out more about the Rain Garden Program, please email Save the Sound's Evan Welsh here or call (203) 787-0646, x113. Be sure to visit our calendar of events to stay updated about our rain garden events and other volunteer opportunities.
Volunteers work to dig a rain garden
A trench is dug to connect the rain garden to the gutter downspout
Putting on the finishing touchesCelebrating a completed rain garden
A diagram showing how a watershed functions.
A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place – in this case - the Quinnipiac River. The Quinnipiac River is the fourth largest river in Connecticut. It begins in west central Connecticut from Dead Wood Swamp west of the city of New Britain. It flows roughly southward to Plainville, Southington, and Cheshire, west of the city of Meriden, through Wallingford and Yalesville, North Haven, and then enters the New Haven Harbor, an inlet of Long Island Sound, east of downtown New Haven. The river has a length of 45.5 miles and a drainage area of approximately 165 square miles. Approximately 350,000 people live in the watershed area. To learn more about the Quinnipiac River watershed, please visit the Quinnipiac River Watershed Association.
An aquifer is a geologic formation or deposit which is capable of yielding usable quantities of groundwater for drinking water and other uses. Groundwater is found in three types of aquifers: stratified drift aquifer, till aquifer, and crystalline bedrock aquifer.
Of these types, public drinking water wells are most often found in stratified drift aquifer areas, as is the case in the Quinnipiac River Watershed area. The stratified drift aquifer is typically a layered deposit of gravel, sand and silt and found in valley areas. There is a lot of storage space for water between the gravel particles, allowing water to travel relatively easily towards the well areas. Yields of water from bedrock wells, common for single family homes on larger lots, are usually limited by the inability of bedrock fractures to transmit much water. Therefore, we will be focusing the locations of the proposed projects in stratified drift aquifers in order to maximize the infiltration of stormwater into soils and the groundwater aquifers below.
A Polluted Superfund Site in Southington, Connecticut
The Old Southington Landfill operated as a municipal and industrial waste landfill between 1920 and 1967. During that period, mixed residential, commercial, and industrial solid and liquid wastes were disposed of at the landfill. The landfill was closed, and residential and commercial buildings were built on sections of the closed landfill. In the 1970s investigations by the Connecticut Department of Public Health determined that groundwater and a nearby drinking water well were contaminated with high levels of various volatile organic compounds. The polluted groundwater was found to have travelled one-half mile from the site, with contaminated drainage running into the Quinnipiac River. The drinking water well was closed and the residential and commercial buildings located on the landfill were ordered to be moved.
The Old Southington Landfill site became an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund sites in the 1980s, and the EPA has been working with the State of Connecticut and Southington to clean up the site over the past twenty years. To learn more about the Old Southington Landfull clean up, you can visit EPA's Superfund webpage.
The contamination of groundwater at the Old Southington Landfill resulted in the closure of a drinking water well, leaving long-lasting damage to the groundwater and rendering millions of gallons of water unavailable for use as drinking water. To compensate for the costs of the clean-up and monitoring efforts of the site, the EPA undertook legal action against the responsible parties and entered into financial settlement agreements. A part of the settlement funds were set aside for projects that would help mitigate the groundwater damages, in other words, help replace what was lost.
Save the Sound and its partners proposed replacing a portion of the “lost” groundwater by constructing one (or more) large bioretention rain gardens at municipal sites and up to 12 residential rain gardens in the Quinnipiac River Watershed area. These green infrastructure projects would absorb stormwater run-off and thereby “recharge” the groundwater aquifers, providing some replenishment of the drinking water resource. The goal is to capture back into the ground and infiltrate rainwater runoff from rooftops that would otherwise end up in the municipal stormwater system, pick up pollution, and flow into nearby streams. When completed, the project is anticipated to infiltrate 340,000 gallons of clean water annually back into the groundwater public water supply.