The Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District is a political subdivision of the State of Ohio, governed by a volunteer board of five members called supervisors. I am always impressed by the dedication of these members — of the time, energy, and ideas they give to promoting conservation locally, statewide and nationally.
At a recent meeting, one of our supervisors made a comment that really stuck with me. It was after a very heavy rainfall event in March and we were discussing the deluge of phone calls and on-site visits covered by the staff. His comment was that what we do is not very glamorous, but makes people’s lives better. By helping people solve their drainage and erosion problems, we improve their quality of life; however, these improvements are often behind the scenes. His example was that new kitchen cabinets are exciting to show friends and family, not so much for a newly dry basement, a stable streambank, and positive drainage away from your house foundation.
I am sure if we took a poll, everyone would say they want clean water and healthy soil. So how do we do that? We have all heard the saying, prevention is worth a pound of cure and is usually way more cost effective, too. I thought I would share some examples of the extreme requests for assistance we’ve addressed.
Many calls are after heavy rains and often involve perceived flooding and ponding issues. At one site visit, we discovered the surface inlet to the storm sewer system was completely plugged with dog droppings. The neighbors had been using it as a receptacle for their pet waste, not understanding that they were causing two huge problems. First, they were blocking the drainage, thus backing water into their yards, and second, they were polluting the water in the storm sewer which drained to the nearby stream.
In another call, the residents said they had water in their basement and wondered if they had built on top of an artesian well. An artesian well is where the goundwater is confined under pressure below layers of relatively impermeable rock, something that is not commonly found in Delaware County. In reality, the homeowner’s basement was constructed in the path of an old farm tile which was still functioning. Locating the old tile and rerouting it around the house produced a dry basement.
We get hit with a barrage of calls from worried residents about detention ponds that have filled up after storm events. Detention basins are dry basins and their purpose is to fill up with rainfall and release it slowly to prevent flooding downstream. Sometimes, the basins fill up because of human causes. We have had to rent multiple pumps to get the water level down in a detention basin only to discover that a plastic bag or piece of firewood had blocked the inlet causing the basin to malfunction.
These are just a few of the examples of the drainage issues we deal with on a regular basis. Here are some ways you can help.
• Only rain down the storm drain! Storm drains and their associated catch basins and surface inlets all lead to the nearest stream. Keep our streams clean by not disposing of pet waste, motor oil, trash, grass clippings, paint or anything else down the drain.
• Soak it in! Healthy grass and trees help water infiltrate into the soil, reducing runoff and soil erosion.
• Secure it! Litter, garden ornaments, toys, firewood, and even yard furniture can be easily transported in an Ohio thunderstorm. These items can block drainage and cause flooding.
• Investigate before, not after! If you are thinking of building, check out the soils and drainage on your site before construction. Delaware County is crisscrossed by farm tile. It is much less expensive and painful to address potential water issues before they happen.
We are here helping you help the land. Visit us on Facebook or on our website at www.delawareswcd.org for information about soils, drainage, and conservation along with the public events we will be offering this spring and summer.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.