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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2014

Rain garden sprouts success at Lourdes

Cindy Carnicom, a senior studying environmental science at Lourdes University, waters plants in the rain garden. Cindy Carnicom, a senior studying environmental science at Lourdes University, waters plants in the rain garden.
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At Lourdes University, rainwater flowing from the rooftops is a precious commodity that is being captured and cleansed before released back into the local water system through a rain garden.

“This is about the headwater of every stream and every river. It starts here,” said Jim Minesky, Environmental Sciences associate professor, pointing to the surrounding buildings and parking lot.

PHOTO GALLERY: Lourdes University rain garden

“Where there is a rooftop, a driveway, a parking lot, when the rain falls we need to take care of that falling water or snow.”

He explained that every community’s drinking water, including Sylvania’s, begins with collecting, some of which flows into rivers and into the Great Lakes, from which Sylvania and Toledo residents get their drinking water.

This June, five university students, including Cindy Carnicom, 47, put an assignment about storm water runoff into practice, designing and constructing a rain garden to capture and cleanse water runoff from the nearby Carmel and Learning Center Halls.

The garden at Lourdes was planned by a group of university students. The garden at Lourdes was planned by a group of university students.
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The buildings‘‍ seven downspouts were directed toward the 480-square-foot garden. Students and faculty assisted with the project, disconnecting the water spouts from the storm water sewer and linking them to underground pipes, redirecting a portion of the 1,300 gallons of annual storm water runoff to the rain garden.

Mr. Minesky and Mrs. Carnicom explained that instead of the rainwater rushing to Heath Ditch, witch joins Ten Mile Creek, the water is percolated through the garden, slowly absorbed by nearby tributaries, diminishing the likelihood of flooding. 

Inside the garden, more than 300 plants, representing 27 native species, produce lengthy roots and sediment is filtered through the soil, and pollutants are cleansed by embedded bacteria and plant roots, they said.

The garden was built to handle a five-inch rain over a 48-hour period, an “unusually high rain for the area,” Mr. Minesky said.

Besides its practical purpose the garden is also a beauty in the midst of the green campus. The plant species blossoming within the soil are indigenous to the Oak Openings Region.

Blue vervain, spouting a pointy purple bud, and rose mallow are thriving in the center, where more water accumulates. Plants that like a drier climate, including the butterfly milkweed and penstemon are planted along the border, Mrs. Carnicom said.

“In three years, this will be filled in. You won’t be able to see the dirt,” Mrs. Carnicom said as she tended to seedlings with ample space between each.

The Sylvania Franciscan Village Green Fund donated $2,000 to the project. The seeds were given to the students in exchange for their labor at Olander Park System and Toledo Metroparks.

The plants are native and attract birds, butterflies, and natural pollinators such as bees, and require little maintenance.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.

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