Mill to receive new bioretention system

The Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River will be working with state officials on a new project to mitigate storm water pollution at the Edinburg Mill.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that Friends, along with 14 other state groups, would be receiving funding from a Green Streets, Green Towns, Green Jobs grant initiative.

Friends will be receiving approximately $43,615 from the initiative to install a bioretention filter system that will help combat storm water pollution in Stony Creek.

Friends Executive Director John Eckman said, “The whole point of the project is to help to clean up the runoff that comes from the parking area at the mill.”

Friends will be working with officials from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Center for Watershed Protection and the town of Edinburg to install the system as well as plants and vegetation near the creek.

Edinburg Mayor Daniel Harshman said the town has been looking for ways to fix the runoff problem for two or three years.

He said that he had been working with Louise Finger, a stream restoration biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, in that time to analyze the problem as well as to look for solutions.

Of the newly funded effort, Finger said, “Relative to a lot of stream work, it’s a pretty small budget requirement, but I think the impact and the benefit to the stream is going to be huge.”

The storm water from the parking lot has been eroding the banks of nearby Stony Creek, Finger said.

The bioretention filter system that Friends and state officials are looking to install will work to reduce sediment flow from storm water that can damage the stream ecology.

“Sediment affects fish health, reproduction, it impacts the insects in the streams and the whole system, really,” Finger said.

To reduce these effects, Finger said, a bioretention system will capture all of the storm water from the mill in a “depression feature,” with plants, mulch and sediment soaking up a good majority of the flow.

“What is not taken up by the plant material and the organics will filter through the soil to an under-drain,” Finger added, noting that the under-drain then will route the remaining water to the stream.

Harshman said there is an educational aspect to the project, given that the system is being installed at a widely visited, public venue.

“These types of new practices are hard to sell for the public,” Harshman said. “From an educational standpoint, this is a good thing for the mill and the county.”

Finger said that there will be signage installed at the mill explaining how the system works — which she said looks more like a small garden — and how it benefits Stony Creek.

Finger said a conservative estimate on the project’s completion would be “by next spring.”

“If things all fall together sooner than later, maybe would could do it by this fall,” Finger said. “It’s probably more realistic that it’ll be in the spring.”

Finger said there are several steps to go — including final design work and hiring a firm for construction — before that time.

Eckman said, “We’re really happy to have this kind of partnership, and we’re hopeful that we can other sites to do this kind restoration … in the future.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com