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Erosion of the channel banks can clearly be seen at the outfall of the pipe draining the entire West Craven Middle School campus.

West Craven Middle School will be the site of an innovative stormwater project, thanks to a $251,586 grant from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund.

“We’re very grateful for the partnership with West Craven Middle School and Craven County Schools to be able to work together to tackle the stormwater challenges,” said Sound Rivers Executive Director Heather Deck. “This grant will allow us, with our partners, to explore innovative ways to protect smaller streams and reduce stormwater pollution in a more cost-effective way.”

The grant to Sound Rivers was announced last week, and now paves the way for a regenerative stormwater conveyance system at the school.

At the Vanceboro campus, a series of drains funnels stormwater runoff into an underground pipe circling the school. Rainwater from the entire campus is discharged through this single pipe, and where it discharges behind the school, the fast-moving water is carving a path to the Neuse River.

The unique issue calls for a unique solution, according to Sound Rivers Program Director Clay Barber.

“The channel’s got some obvious signs of soil erosion, and it’s starting to expose tree roots. Since it’s very close to the river, that sediment is going straight into the Neuse, right next to the Spring Garden boat ramp,” Clay said. “This is a school that is totally surrounded by one pipe and it leads to one place, on the back side of the school. We want to take some of that water out of the pipe, so we’re going to do something called daylighting, where we bring water out of the pipe in the ground and run it down the slope through a series of sand seepage berms.”

The RSC allows runoff to pool up and filter through one sandy berm at a time, then fill up the next berm. Each time the water filters through a sandy layer, it’s filtering out pollutants, as will the native grasses, trees and shrubs that will be planted along the banks.

“We’ve built two large rain gardens as part of this treatment train, so we’re working on reducing the input and now working at the downstream end to solve the erosion issue — so thanks to multiple funding sources, including Bosch Community Fund, Harold Bate Foundation and Craven Community Foundation, we’ll be working on campus wide solutions,” Heather said.

“It’s just another version of ‘spread it out, slow it down, seep it through,’” Clay said.

The large pipe that conveys stormwater from the middle school campus is surrounded by concrete to prevent erosion around the pipe itself.

Some RSCs have been employed in the western part of the state, but this will be a first in eastern North Carolina.

“It’s a common practice, just not around here,” Clay said. “This project is very innovative because the erosion is in a very early stage, but on its way to becoming a larger problem. Regenerative Stormwater Conveyance systems are typically used where there’s a lot of erosion, and very deep channels. This is a bit of a study on how effective it is in this region and how effective it is in stopping the erosion.”

The RSC was proposed by Kris Bass Engineering engineer Simon Gregg for a stormwater assessment done of West Craven Middle School for Sound Rivers. Along with Craven County Schools and Kris Bass Engineering, East Carolina University also will be partnering with Sound Rivers on the project. ECU Health and Human Performance’s Dr. Charlie Humphrey will be monitoring the before and after of the West Craven Middle School’s RSC.

“They’re going to help build some data at how well this thing performs in reducing nasty stuff in getting from point A to point B,” Clay said.

A schematic by Kris Bass Engineering shows a regenerative stormwater conveyance system on the campus of West Craven Middle School.

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