By Richelle Gonzalez
Capital News Service
BLADENSBURG — Gardens that filter rainwater to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay will be planted in Prince George’s County, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday.
The four gardens, which will be installed in Bladensburg and nearby cities, will be paid for in part by a $10.9 million EPA grant that will also fund 54 other projects to help clean up the bay.
The rain gardens will be fashioned from a special mix of soils and plants that will allow rainwater to be absorbed, while filtering harmful phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment that would otherwise flow to the Anacostia River and the bay.
Leaders in Bladensburg and surrounding cities will work with residents to determine where to place the gardens, said Neil Weinstein, executive director of the Low Impact Development Center, the organization that designed the gardens.
The pollution-reduction projects will be spread across the Chesapeake watershed states — Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware — and Washington, D.C.
"Water quality is a very local, very personal issue," said Shawn Garvin, administrator for the EPA's Mid-Atlantic region.
Together, the projects are expected to prevent 600,000 tons of sediment, 2 million pounds of nitrogen and 700,000 pounds of phosphorus from entering the bay, according to the EPA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which administered the grants.
Nitrogen and phosphorus cause algae blooms that limit oxygen, creating "dead zones" in the bay that are harmful to aquatic life. Sediment decreases the amount of sunlight entering the bay.
The projects will also preserve 3,729 acres of land in the Chesapeake watershed, restore 32 miles of stream and river banks and improve stormwater management on 2,878 acres, the EPA said.
The $10.9 million in EPA grant funds will be matched by $16 million from grant recipients to finance the projects. Other projects will retool fire station roofs in Washington, D.C., to capture and reuse stormwater, remove invasive species in Frederick County, and lobby homeowners in Virginia to reduce fertilizer use.
State and local officials gathered at Bladensburg Town Hall on Wednesday to begin a tour of sites in the region where some of the projects funded by the grants will be located.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., chairman of the Senate Water and Wildlife subcommittee, said that projects would help to clean up the bay while also creating green jobs.
"Wherever we live in the state of Maryland ... anything we do has an impact on the Chesapeake Bay," Cardin said in an interview.
Tom George of Capital News Service contributed to this report.