June 1, 2014

Bee investigator: Big hole near Garrison Elementary part of solution to area flooding

What’s with the giant hole in Garrison Park next to the elementary school on Carver Road? It’s a project to solve flooding by taking rainwater out of the sewer system and sending it to holding tanks, where it will percolate into the aquifer.

Two readers asked about the humongous pit that’s been dug next to Garrison Elementary School on Carver Road in Modesto.

“It looks big enough to be a swimming pool for Godzilla,” said Frank Ramczyk.

“I was just wondering, what the heck is going on in the back part of Garrison Park, on Carver Road?” asked Karen Sharits. “I first thought they were preparing to enlarge the school, but now I have no idea. Could you check on this? A lot of us in the neighborhood are wondering.”

Wonder no more.

If you live in that area, you know there’s usually a lake that pops up at Carver Road and Orangeburg Avenue every time there’s a good rainstorm. It’s a mess, with two lanes east and west rather than the usual four as cars become more like surfboards bobbing on the waves that appear as vehicles try to get through without stalling.

The residential neighborhoods in the area also are inundated with flooding. Although not so obvious in dry years, the wet season can mean you need to get out your waders to cross the street. To make matters worse, the stormwater flows into the city’s wastewater system, which can cause all kinds of subsequent problems, such as sewage spilling into the streets.

In new subdivisions, the solution would be to dig a neighborhood drainage pond that doubles as a park when the rainwater subsides, but that’s not an option in an area already settled. So Modesto came up with this idea instead.

William Wong, Modesto’s acting director of utility planning and projects, said the city is taking out the old pipes that direct the rainwater to the sewer system “and putting in a positive storm drain system. We’re replacing it with pipelines and directing the flow to these underground storage chambers that we’re putting in. It stores up to 2 million gallons.”

The rainwater, which will be treated to clean up the dirt, oil, grease and other materials it picks up from the area streets, then will percolate into the ground and “recharge the aquifer.”

So, it will be a two-fer. Take water out of the wastewater system to eliminate the threat of sewage spills, and increase the water table in the area.

“The state doesn’t allow a combined system anymore, sewer and stormwater both. This is a way to eliminate that,” Wong said.

The $4 million project, which includes $3 million from a state grant, will be finished by the end of the year or in early 2015, he said. The park part of the project will be finished this summer and will include improvements.

“We’re going to be rebuilding the ballfield there, and we’ll be adding two half-court basketball courts, drinking fountains and benches.” Wong said. “We’re going to install more efficient irrigation systems to be more water-efficient; there will be new sprinklers and grass.”

The project is wide-reaching, affecting 24 acres on either side of Carver Road and mostly south of Orangeburg to Ninth Street.

The city has identified other areas for similar projects, Wong said, but those must wait on funding.

So, not a swimming pool for a monster, but a worthwhile project to help with flooding, water conservation and better neighborhoods. Sounds like a winner to me.

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