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    Restoring urban water quality

    Conservancy applies for grant to preserve Lick Creek

    By Emily Adams Keplinger - The Commercial Appeal -

    Money may soon be flowing into Midtown, just like the water that has filled some streets, alleys and homes. Ask anyone who has had to dry out their basement after a hard rain, from not only rain water, but also raw sewage, and they will tell you — the aid cannot come soon enough. The issue at hand is the proposed Midtown detention basin that would help corral flood waters from Lick Creek.

    Urban Waters Small Grants support community efforts to make water quality restoration relevant to public health, social economics and livability goals.

    The application deadline for the latest round of proposals closed Monday. The EPA will award between $1.8 million and $3.8 million in grants. Wolf River Conservancy is the local applicant seeking money to take a look at Lick Creek for repairs and maintenance.

    "The intent of this grant is to further the WRC's mission in preserving and protecting the Wolf River water shed," said Keith Cole, WRC executive director. "And with this grant, we will better understand and would expect to improve, water quality for the Greater Memphis area. This grant is for research money that will be used in a broad approach, not for a specific project, like the detention basin that has been proposed for the Overton Square area."

    "There will be only four to eight grants awarded in the Southeast region, depending on the amount of available funding," said WRC grant writer Cathy Marcinko. "For our request, there are two components we are focusing on: an assessment of Lick Creek and a rain barrel program."

    The rain barrel project will be in partnership with the Tennessee Yards and Neighborhoods program.

    "The rain barrel project will be an expansion of that outreach, by initiating the train-the-trainer component," said Chris Masin, senior engineer for Shelby County. "A half-inch of rain falling on a house can generate up to 500 useable gallons of water, enough to fill 10 55-gallon rain barrels. In turn, that collected water can be used to water lawns, wash cars, clean outdoor furniture, fill birdbaths, and water outdoor potted plants. Additionally, rain barrels offer a means of preventing pollution from paved surfaces and lawns from getting into waterways."

    Although blessed with an underground aquifer, Memphis' sanitary sewer system was put in place in the early days of the city's development. The pipes were laid side-by-side with one carrying sewage and the other storm water.

    "However, some of the older terracotta and cast-iron pipes have cracked with age and now, when we experience a heavy rain that promotes flash flooding, water from the pipes designed to carry sewage seeps out into the sanitary storm water pipes," said Mary Wilder, community volunteer for the Lick Creek Storm Water Coalition.

    The city has begun installing detention basins. While the large basin in Uptown, as part of Gayoso Bayou, may be a familiar landmark, chances are many folks have driven right past other areas not realizing they are also designed to hold back storm water long enough to prevent major flooding.

    The water feature at University Place at I-240 and Crump is a retention basin.

    The Christian Brothers University Signaigo Soccer Field, off Central in the southern part of campus, was designed with a flood control system under the field.

    Peabody Elementary on Young Avenue has a detention basin built on the campus that involved replacing an asphalt playground with grass to avert flood waters from the school buildings. The basin also provides storm water detention for the upper Lick Creek basin.

    The soccer field at Second Presbyterian Church, at Goodlett and Central Avenue is also a detention basin.

    "If a storm water management system was in place to detain the water and release it slowly, then flooding can be prevented," said Wilder.