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    $1.2 million Mary Waters Park project​ will help prevent flooding near new Creston Plaza Apartments, improve water quality of Grand River 

    Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand and state Rep. Winnie Brinks were among the elected officials and city leaders participating in a ceremonial groundbreaking today at Mary Waters Park to help kick off construction on the largest stormwater control project in the city’s history.

    Grand Rapids is constructing a $1.2 million underground storage facility at Mary Waters Park that will hold 720,000 gallons of stormwater, nearly three times the size of the 270,000-gallon treatment system the city most recently installed at Joe Taylor Park in 2010. The stormwater treatment efforts are part of the Green Grand Rapids initiative that includes preventing contaminated runoff from entering the Grand River. Research commissioned by the city through Grand Valley State University shows that water and stormwater infrastructure improvements can lead to a 1-5 percent increase in property values. 

    “Grand Rapids has already achieved historic success in transforming the quality of the Grand River with our investment in a separated sewer system that has all but eliminated sewer overflow discharges and rivals the performance of any system in the nation,” said Mayor Heartwell.

    “Now it’s time to focus our energies on developing and implementing proactive policies that will better manage stormwater runoff, eliminate water pollution in Grand Rapids to ensure the well-being of our citizens and preserve the Grand River for future generations,” the mayor said.

    Construction on the Mary Waters Park stormwater treatment system is scheduled for completion in November and coincides with the opening of the $22.7 million Creston Plaza Apartments development that includes 100 new single-family homes and duplexes for low-income residents. The city’s stormwater project will help prevent chronic flooding near the development and reduce the amount of metals, sediments and organic enrichment flowing untreated into the Grand River. The work is part of the city’s $400 million combined sewer overflow (CSO) project that began in 1988 and was completed in July 2015, three years ahead of a state-mandated deadline. 

    “I’m excited to see the Mary Waters Park project move forward so that we can reach our shared vision of further establishing the Grand River as a world-class asset,” said Sen. Hildenbrand (R-Lowell). “This represents an outstanding example of city government leaders working together with key stakeholders, such as the Belknap Lookout Neighborhood Association, to help Grand Rapids set new standards in environmental stewardship.”

    The installation of new stormwater management controls is aimed at addressing an issue that has challenged Grand Rapids’ policymakers for several years. 

    Rainfall that lands on rooftops, lawns, farms and pavement picks up whatever debris and pollutants may reside there and runs off into creeks, streams, rivers and lakes. Unlike the city’s sanitary sewer system through which sewage travels to the city’s wastewater treatment plant, the storm sewer system drains an estimated 2 billion gallons of untreated surface water runoff annually into the Grand River. According to the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), studies of storm sewer outflows have revealed concentrations of heavy metals such as dissolved copper and zinc at levels exceeding acute and chronic toxicity criteria. All of the 13 metals on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priority pollutant list have been detected in runoff samples in communities similar to Grand Rapids, WMEAC reports, though the organization notes that no local samples exist that show the presence of those metals in the Grand River. 

    Grand Rapids is attacking the problem by allocating about $4.1 million annually toward stormwater management, ranging from soil erosion and sedimentation control activities to maintaining sewers, manholes and catch basins as well as routine cleaning and repairing of the system channels.

    Rather than simply transport the stormwater to the river, the City has opted to treat all of the flow and infiltrate a portion of the stormwater. The Mary Waters Park project will route stormwater runoff from surrounding residential and commercial properties to an underground holding facility. Prior to entering the infiltration area, large debris – such as bottles, cans, cigarette butts and other floatable pollutants – that would otherwise flow into the Grand River will instead be removed with a hydrodynamic separator. Hydrodynamic separators are flow-through structures with a settling or separation unit to remove sediments and other pollutants that are widely used in stormwater treatment. No outside power source is required, because the energy of the flowing water allows the sediments to efficiently separate. The stormwater then infiltrates the sandy soil below. The system’s design life is expected to exceed 50 years and will eliminate more than 11 million gallons of untreated stormwater annually from entering the Grand River, based on an estimated annual average of 32 inches of rainfall.

    “Stormwater management runoff is now the front line of our city’s push to improve the Grand River,” said Rep. Brinks (D-Grand Rapids). 

    “We can all take tremendous pride in the remarkable progress Grand Rapids has made over the past decade to clean up the river,” Brinks said. “But we can’t rest on our laurels – we still have important work to do if want to protect and sustain the Grand River’s pristine beauty.”

    Brinks lauded Mayor Heartwell and the City Commission for hiring firms with offices and employees in Grand Rapids to complete the Mary Waters Park project. The city’s contractors are Kamminga & Roodvoets, 3435 Broadmoor Avenue SE, and Black & Veatch, 125 Ottawa Avenue NW.

    Among the officials in attendance for today’s groundbreaking at Mary Waters Park were Second Ward City Commissioner Ruth Kelly, Belknap Lookout Neighborhood Association Executive Director Kristi DeKraker, Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department (ESD) Manager Mike Lunn, Grand Rapids Housing Commission Executive Director Carlos Sanchez, Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Director David Marquardt.