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1404 Goodale Boulevard, Suite 100
Columbus, OH 43212
Phone: (614) 486-9613
Fax: (614) 486-9614

Willow Brook

The Problem
  Litter that goes down storm drains ends up in local streams

When urban areas are built up near a stream it usually has a negative effect on the quality of that stream. Pollutants such as litter, fertilizer, salt, leaked vehicle fluids, pet waste and more put pressure on the stream and the creatures that live in it and make it difficult for them to survive. Urban areas also have lots of hard surfaces that runoff into the stream. Where water used to be able to soak into the soil, it now runs along the hard surfaces, picking up speed and funneling into streams causing flooding. Over time this flooding causes erosion which releases sediment, which is its own kind of pollution, into the stream. The stream in the Willow Brook Crossing development in Jefferson Township has been made unhealthy by urban development. Usually the process of restoring a stream is expensive and requires specialized expertise. We wanted to find a solution that could help reduce stream pollution more effectively than current practices, and at a better price. 

What's a Stream Insert?

The inserts are like leaky beaver dams, aproximately one foot high, made from cut-to-size pieces of recycled, fibrous, plastic material that are stacked in the stream. Stacks of this material are secured into the streambed by steel stakes and an anchor.  They reduce erosion by taking power out of the stream, slowing it down and redirecting flow.  They can be installed in such a way as to move the primary flow away from eroding banks. Their benefits extend beyond erosion protection and can include improving water quality, adding stream habitat, sustaining flow during dry weather and enhancing pools and riffles.

Why Inserts?

Normally stream restoration efforts involve bringing out heavy construction equipment to move earth, as well as installation of large rock berms to prevent erosion. The only equipment needed for the inserts is the mesh material, some stakes and anchors, a circular saw and 2-3 people to perform the installation. 20 inserts can be installed along a half mile of stream for about $10,000. This cost also includes invasive removal and buffer plantings  

Stream Inserts Can't Do It All On Their Own 

We do not generally think of a stream as having "skin". However, the vegetation along the banks of a stream serves as its skin. This buffer zone protects the stream from pollution, much as our skin protects our bodies from bacteria and other things that could do us harm. These buffers ought to contain a variety of vegetation: trees, shrubs and non-woody, native perennial plants. In addition to protecting streams from pollution and removing pollution from their water, vegetated buffers stabilize banks, keep the creek cool, reduce algae growth, and provide food and shelter for aquatic organisms. They are more effective when they are free from invasive plants that take over stream corridors, excluding other plants and providing limited benefits to the stream. Try as we might we have yet to invent something that can do as good of a job protecting streams from pollution and erosion than native trees and plants. For this reason we incorporated invasive removal and native plantings along the edges of the stream where we installed our inserts. We were happy to employ the help of MAD Scientist Associates to help with invasive removal and native plantings at Willow Brook! 

What's Next?

Now that installation is complete we will track changes in the stream and the inserts, addressing problems that may arise. The Ohio EPA will also monitor the aquatic life in the stream, which is how stream health is assessed in Ohio. In a pilot insert project we saw an increase in number of species of fish and aquatic insects that are sensitive to pollution present in the stream, indicating an improvement in stream health.

This project was financed through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act.