Atlanta — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced regional winners in its first annual Rain Catcher Award. Horry County, S.C., won in the Neighborhood/Community Category for the Crabtree Swamp Restoration Project in Conway, S.C.; the Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) won in the Municipal Category; the Volkswagen Group of America won in the Commercial Category for the Chattanooga, Tenn., Assembly Plant. The awards were given during the EPA Region 4/International Erosion Control Association Municipal Wet Weather Stormwater Conference, in Charlotte, N.C.

The Crabtree restoration effort consisted of two projects focusing on a strategy of controlling sediment transport to address fecal bacteria, dissolved oxygen, and to reduce turbidity. The effects of urbanization had greatly altered the Crabtree canal, leading to increased runoff volumes, peak flow rates, flooding, and water quality impairments. The projects utilized a two-stage design to reconnect the canal with the remnant hardwood floodplain via a gently sloping riparian bench. The new channel configuration provides for flood storage and bank stabilization, and increased biological habitat. Monitoring efforts have demonstrated water quality improvements as result of the project.

The South Fork Beargrass Creek was the waterway targeted for the Louisville and Jefferson County MSD project. Project goals included reducing stormwater to the combined sewer overflow (CSO) basin; demonstrating viability to the Louisville/Jefferson County municipal separate storm sewer community and providing an example of an incentive program. The resultant CSO 130 Green Infrastructure Project provided a higher level of control using green infrastructure and low impact development practices at a significant lower cost than traditional control measures. Monitoring efforts are set to demonstrate a marked reduction in overflow events resulting in approximately 6.5 million gallons of combined sewage removed from Beargrass Creek per year. Green infrastructure practices also resulted in the elimination of a proposed 80,000 gallon storage basin.

The Volkswagen Group’s Chattanooga facility is the world’s first LEED Platinum Certified Automotive Facility. The facility has voluntarily set aside at least 20 percent of the property as open space and implemented a host of practices aimed to protect stormwater. These practices include the use of bioswales in the facility parking lots and the construction of 3.3 miles of stream and 2.8 miles of greenspace. The site collects stormwater from its roof for use in its cooling tower and toilets. The site also has two distinct wetlands that are critical to the survival of several wildlife species such as the Red Headed Woodpecker and the Rusty Blackbird.

The EPA Region 4 Rain Catcher Award recognizes excellence in the implementation of stormwater green infrastructure practices. Green infrastructure uses natural systems and/or engineered systems designed to mimic natural processes to more effectively manage urban stormwater and reduce receiving water impacts. EPA and its partner organizations have promoted the use of green infrastructure for many years as part of a comprehensive approach to achieving healthier waters. Green infrastructure reduces the volume of stormwater discharges by managing rainwater close to where it falls and removes many of the pollutants present in runoff, making it an effective strategy for addressing wet weather pollution and improving water quality.