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Show #46/3807
Reducing Effects Of Storm Water Runoff


Changes in Chattanooga
SANDY TELLS US THAT THIS PROGRESS IS A RESULT OF A PRIVATE/PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP. This partnership has been able to propagate trees, in some cases reduce the storm water effect and build ponds that help clean the grey water which can then be used to irrigate the trees and greenery. These actions have made a huge impact on the environment and changed the whole face of the city. It's now a beautiful place.

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New Technology
RANDY TELLS US ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY HE'S NOW INVOLVED WITH. Up to this point construction erosion control was done with a silt fence. A silt fence just forces the water to back up behind it, creating a dam, then gravity lets the suspended soil settle out. But, silt fences normally fail when needed most, they typically fall over during a big rain. Filtrex is the company that invented a "sock." Randy uses his blower trucks to blow mulch into the sock. Mulch is just ground up trees and limbs which filters the storm water and in the process catches about 95% of the suspended sediment. Additionally approximately 98% of petroleum runoff gets trapped in the sock, so it's a filter medium, rather than damming it up. Plus it doesn't require trenching.

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Applications for the Sock
RANDY FEELS THEY HAVE STUMBLED UPON A NUMBER OF APPLICATIONS FOR THE SOCK THAT ARE "GREEN" APPLICATIONS. In one area they are filling the socks with a leaf compost and a growing medium but any kind of dirt with a growing medium will work. The blower trucks have seed injectors in them allowing seed and compost to be injected into the sock. Grass seed is often used and that works great.

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Storm Water is a Problem
STORM WATER IS A BIG PROBLEM TODAY, YET VERY FEW UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEMS THAT RESULT FROM STORM WATER. Most think that storm water is something that cities must deal with, but in fact in many cases homeowners are the main culprit. In nature, with an average 1/2 inch rain and no concrete and steel that 1/2 inch rain stays on site, it is absorbed into the ground, none of it goes into the streams and rivers. In an urban environment 75% of that storm water goes into streams and rivers because of the concrete, steel and roofs and today it is a major problem. Randy feels this can be solved with awareness and a little technology.

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Green Roof
ERIC HAS SEEN A LOT OF GREEN ROOFS BUT NEVER ONE LIKE THIS. This green roof was pretty simple. They put a filter sock or levy sock, Randy calls it a garden sock, around the edge. In the middle is a 50/50 mixture of locally recycled compost with some expanded slate to add structure. The homeowner can then plant whatever they want. Most green roofs require a drainage system underneath which is usually expensive and typically requires an expensive organic medium both of which Randy thinks in most cases is unnecessary.

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Green Wall
IT IS BASICALLY A GREEN WALL. This was previously a nasty eroded slope and had been for 5-10 years before Randy came in. They were going to build a block retaining wall. He proposed the living wall concept which was a fairly new idea and found some skepticism. However, they got all the needed people in a room and they bought the idea. The developer, the owner of the condominium and the city all joined forces, said give it a shot and each paid 1/3. It is really just a living sock. The sock is injected with compost and seed instead of a filter medium. They lay the sock at the bottom, anchor it with stakes or to some existing root structure if possible or use duck bills.

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Riprap
RIPRAP IS UTILIZED FOR EROSION CONTROL. The difference here is that there is a fair amount of vegetation. It would normally take 50-100 years for the vegetation to come back, even then it often doesn't. Randy has accelerated that process. Riprap does a good job of erosion control but is ugly. Another problem with riprap is that a lot of water based animals need dirt for nesting and a lot of land based animals need a drink of water. With riprap animals have difficulty navigating the area. Randy has again utilized his blower trucks. They've blown in locally recycled leaf compost, injected it with a mixture of meadow and wildflower seeds then blown the mixture on top of the riprap. It looks good, they're bringing back the native grasses and native wildflowers whose roots help hold the bank in place.

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Randy's Yard
BUT WE NOW VISIT RANDY'S YARD to see first hand how he has utilized some of these new ideas and products at his home. The first application we notice is what Randy calls a living wall. Between 2 trees he has suspended a line and from the line he has suspended several living socks. With dirt in the sock, it has the ability to become a portable planter. One can move them anywhere.

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Complete transcript of the show.


In this show Garden Smart visits Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga has utilized some truly innovative methods to deal with some past ecological problem areas. Their solutions are innovative and have applications that are ideal for the homeowner as well.
Sandy Soltau is a nurseryman from Chattanooga who owns a wonderful garden center called The Little Greenhouse that is located in the center of town. Sandy is also actively working with the City of Chattanooga which is on the cutting edge of the environmental movement. Chattanooga has been revitalizing areas of the city because in the 1970's Chattanooga was voted one of the worst air polluted cities in the country. Sandy felt that because his business was center city his business could provide assistance and a service to the city by remediating some of the environmental issues that existed in the downtown corridor. The site where The Little Green House is located is indicative of many of the sites in town years ago - polluted. Yet just across the street it looks fantastic, one sees the progress. SANDY TELLS US THAT THIS PROGRESS IS A RESULT OF A PRIVATE/PUBLIC PARTNERSHIP. This partnership has been able to propagate trees, in some cases reduce the storm water effect and build ponds that help clean the grey water which can then be used to irrigate the trees and greenery. These actions have made a huge impact on the environment and changed the whole face of the city. It's now a beautiful place.
Sandy shows us one example. It's fantastic, beautiful and amazing to see the transformation. At one point this was a fairly ugly site, but now is filled with wild flowers, grass and beautiful overlooks for pedestrians to utilize. It's a great spot, like a little park, it even has an amphitheater. Chattanooga originally, like most river towns, was filled with industrial sites. At some point, through the vision of Mayor Corker, they decided to remediate and change these sites. The public/private partnership developed this public space and others that everyone can come and enjoy. Today, people are enjoying music and at the same time it is a teaching vehicle for the whole city to learn about storm runoff and remediation. It has obviously worked because today there is an abundance of wildlife and people have returned. To aid in the transformation they utilized things like the gabions. These are rock structures that are placed in what was a river of run off. The gabions reduce the storm effect which is caused by water that runs out of the hills and through the city. When the water hits the gabions they slow the water as it works itself out to the river. That's part of reducing the storm effect. The aquatic plants that have been planted also help.
To learn more about the process of developing and reclaiming sites like this we next talk with Randy Whorton. Randy is an electrical engineer by training and thus far has spent most of his career building printed circuit boards. His passion is the outdoors and environmental issues, thus knew he should be doing something else. He wanted to join a start up company, accordingly studied different options. He and his partner purchased an existing company that basically had blower trucks that previously had been used for blowing mulch in flower-beds. One of the things that prompted him to leave Colorado was the air pollution there. They didn't know beforehand about Chattanooga's polluted background but have found a lot of young people that care about the environment and there are a lot of outdoor activities. He loves Chattanooga, it is a fantastic city. Eric feels the electricity in the air. The downtown is vibrant and beautiful.
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RANDY TELLS US ABOUT THE TECHNOLOGY HE'S NOW INVOLVED WITH. Up to this point construction erosion control was done with a silt fence. A silt fence just forces the water to back up behind it, creating a dam, then gravity lets the suspended soil settle out. But, silt fences normally fail when needed most, they typically fall over during a big rain. Filtrex is the company that invented a "sock." Randy uses his blower trucks to blow mulch into the sock. Mulch is just ground up trees and limbs which filters the storm water and in the process catches about 95% of the suspended sediment. Additionally approximately 98% of petroleum runoff gets trapped in the sock, so it's a filter medium, rather than damming it up. Plus it doesn't require trenching.
Another innovative product Randy utilizes is a 100% recycled, high density polyethylene grid. Lay it out on the ground, put dirt or seed inside the grid, grass will grow and it can be driven on. It's strong enough that a tanker truck can drive on it.
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RANDY FEELS THEY HAVE STUMBLED UPON A NUMBER OF APPLICATIONS FOR THE SOCK THAT ARE "GREEN" APPLICATIONS. In one area they are filling the socks with a leaf compost and a growing medium but any kind of dirt with a growing medium will work. The blower trucks have seed injectors in them allowing seed and compost to be injected into the sock. Grass seed is often used and that works great. Sandy Soltau has been helpful in identifying the right kind of plants, plants that are erosion control plants. The ideal plant is deep rooted and somewhat drought tolerant because once these plants become established with deep enough roots the sock becomes unnecessary. After a couple of seasons the sock can go away, it is no longer needed and the area turns back to a natural setting.
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Importantly, the sock has important homeowner applications. STORM WATER IS A BIG PROBLEM TODAY, YET VERY FEW UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEMS THAT RESULT FROM STORM WATER. Most think that storm water is something that cities must deal with, but in fact in many cases homeowners are the main culprit. In nature, with an average 1/2 inch rain and no concrete and steel that 1/2 inch rain stays on site, it is absorbed into the ground, none of it goes into the streams and rivers. In an urban environment 75% of that storm water goes into streams and rivers because of the concrete, steel and roofs and today it is a major problem. Randy feels this can be solved with awareness and a little technology. Today many people use railroad ties in their yards for various applications. Railroad ties are soaked with creosote which gets in the water supply. Concrete is also often used as a landscaping solution. It is not only unattractive but creates a storm water problem. These are both examples of products we should move away from if concerned about run off.
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Eric and Randy visit the first example of how Randy utilizes these products. Here we're high on a hill overlooking Chattanooga, the view looks all the way to the city. And they hear a band warming up for tonight's concert. ERIC HAS SEEN A LOT OF GREEN ROOFS BUT NEVER ONE LIKE THIS. This green roof was pretty simple. They put a filter sock or levy sock, Randy calls it a garden sock, around the edge. In the middle is a 50/50 mixture of locally recycled compost with some expanded slate to add structure. The homeowner can then plant whatever they want. Most green roofs require a drainage system underneath which is usually expensive and typically requires an expensive organic medium both of which Randy thinks in most cases is unnecessary. The plants on this roof are common to other green roofs. We see Sedum spurium 'Tricolor', Sedum repestre 'Angelina', and Lythrum salicaria (Lysimachia). This green roof will look great once it fills in. There are many benefits to green roofs. The most damaging element to a roof is the sun. The green roof completely eliminates that thus the roof will last 2 to 3 times longer than normal. As well the insulating value is 2 to 3 times what a normal roof would provide, thus this roof will pay for itself in several years. Because the roof is now a permeable surface the storm water runoff will be greatly reduced. There will be some but not much. This is an inexpensive method of incorporating a green roof, only a fraction of what it normally would cost. It's great for the home and great for the environment and it looks fantastic.
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The guys look at another site. This is in town and the concert is getting underway. They're standing at the top of an interesting location. This is another application of the filter sock but quite a bit different. IT IS BASICALLY A GREEN WALL. This was previously a nasty eroded slope and had been for 5-10 years before Randy came in. They were going to build a block retaining wall. He proposed the living wall concept which was a fairly new idea and found some skepticism. However, they got all the needed people in a room and they bought the idea. The developer, the owner of the condominium and the city all joined forces, said give it a shot and each paid 1/3. It is really just a living sock. The sock is injected with compost and seed instead of a filter medium. They lay the sock at the bottom, anchor it with stakes or to some existing root structure if possible or use duck bills. With the first layer anchored, thus a good footer, they just slowly keep laying sock on top of sock on top of sock anchoring as they go. After it's all laid in they plant the trees and native plants. They utilize good erosion control plants that are deep rooting. There has been a drought now for 5 or 6 weeks thus the grass and flowers are rather brown but most of the year it is pretty and green, really quite nice. As with many construction sites like this the problem is that there isn't enough organic matter and no top soil. Essentially what they have done is replace what would have been top soil with rich compost and added the native plants. The roots grow back into the bank, thereby reclaiming what previously had been a tough site. The options typically would have been concrete or block walls but this is much nicer and the water coming down the hill is now used by the plants, it doesn't go out to the road. It makes a really good looking green wall.
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We next look at another application. Here we view a site that has often-seen characteristics. It is a steep incline where the contractors have basically come in with riprap. RIPRAP IS UTILIZED FOR EROSION CONTROL. The difference here is that there is a fair amount of vegetation. It would normally take 50-100 years for the vegetation to come back, even then it often doesn't. Randy has accelerated that process. Riprap does a good job of erosion control but is ugly. Another problem with riprap is that a lot of water based animals need dirt for nesting and a lot of land based animals need a drink of water. With riprap animals have difficulty navigating the area. Randy has again utilized his blower trucks. They've blown in locally recycled leaf compost, injected it with a mixture of meadow and wildflower seeds then blown the mixture on top of the riprap. It looks good, they're bringing back the native grasses and native wildflowers whose roots help hold the bank in place. They're giving Mother Nature a head start. Importantly, it's a huge plus from a runoff standpoint, drainage into the lake is limited. And importantly it not only solves the functional aspects but looks great as well.
Top


We've looked at a number of commercial and municipal uses that also have applications for the homeowner BUT WE NOW VISIT RANDY'S YARD to see first hand how he has utilized some of these new ideas and products at his home. The first application we notice is what Randy calls a living wall. Between 2 trees he has suspended a line and from the line he has suspended several living socks. With dirt in the sock, it has the ability to become a portable planter. One can move them anywhere. Why not hang them? He took a strong towing cable, put it between 2 trees, then utilized nylon webbing which hangs down with a pod or sock hanging off. He staged it on the ground, thus had the plants planted in the pods on the ground, then raised them up carefully. The planting is only 3 days old thus the plants aren't full but it seems to be working. In the pods or socks he has planted Hedera helix (English Ivy) as well as some Petunia x hybrida which provides some evergreen and some color. Since the planters are in the tree watering is a challenge, especially with air on all sides it is hard to keep the sock moist. Accordingly Randy installed a drip system at the top and it seems to be working. This is a good idea particularly for a small or tight space, a space that might not be large enough for a hedge, for example. As long as the suspension posts are strong enough, in this case the trees are strong enough, this could be a solid wall of dirt and plants could be growing up as high as one would want. It has endless opportunities.
Randy has also built some raised beds with the socks. This application would be ideal for vegetable or flower gardening. Randy feels one of the challenges with gardening is that it's backbreaking, labor intensive and time consuming. He feels the socks solve a lot of those problems. The sock can be used as a terrace and one can plant vegetables right up to the wall. The 12 or 15 foot sections are easily moved or dragged by 2 people. So what might normally take one weekend, possibly two, can now be planted in 1/2 a day. Randy did. He laid the socks then punched holes into them, then planted the plants into the sock. It is very flexible.
Randy has also created gardens where the walls were like a pyramid. Starting at the bottom with 5 layers wide then narrowing 4, 3, 2 and 1, making the structure 3 or 4 feet tall. Every one of the layers can be a different garden. It can be laid on rock, there is no amending the soil, no tilling, in an afternoon one can have a garden growing. It also has applications in an urban setting because it has a small footprint and can be dropped anywhere. It's a great idea. One woman with a bad back loves this application because the beds can be built to the height comfortable for her. She won't need to bend over, it will solve a lot of problems.
There is nothing like the sound of running water. Coy ponds are a wonderful component in the garden. Typically one will dig out a large hole then line it with a plastic liner, then set rocks around it. But Randy has taken a different approach. He dug a little bit of a hole but it's not needed because most of what's around the pond and providing the border is the living sock, which again, is compost filled. It takes a lot of the backbreaking work out of building a pond because there is no hauling rock, no removing the dirt, then getting rid of the dirt nor all the other hassles involved. Don't dig at all, use this method of lining it with the pyramided sock, put down the liner, add another sock around the top to serve as an anchor. One has a pond in an afternoon, as opposed to a pond in a weekend or several weekends. Again, there are plants along the outside edges because he's working vegetation into the sock thus there is green space going right up to the edge of the pond. It has a very natural look.
More and more people are looking for innovative ways to take a personal role in environmental reclamation projects. Most want to be better stewards of the earth and water. It's neat to see the products that are being developed that are using recyclable, renewable materials and equally impressive to see the unique applications for these products. There are environmental issues in the news everyday and there really are ways we can have an effect. The storm water issue, the pollution in our ground water and air are examples. And there are opportunities and products that weren't out there 5 years ago. Equally impressive is the fact that many are a lot less expensive, oftentimes 1/3 the cost, than the old traditional ways. Many are easy to install and there is pride of ownership when you start doing things yourself.
Eric thanks Randy for showing us these new products and some of the uses for them. These are products that are ideal for gardeners and we'll undoubtedly be seeing more of them every day. Thanks Randy.
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