DC Greenworks combats storm sewer backups with eco-friendly rain barrels


DC GreenworksOur current Environment beneficiary DC Greenworks is combating storm sewer backups and flooding in two Washington, DC, neighborhoods in the wake of Superstorm Sandy by installing RiverSafe rain barrel systems. According to Peter Ensign, the executive director of DC Greenworks, “Collection of stormwater through rain barrel systems is a critical and effective component of strategies to curb the problems that can arise when there is insufficient drainage from properties.” Without effective drainage, sewers can overflow or back up into houses.

Installation of the barrels began in early November; DC Greenworks has been contracted to install barrels and cisterns at 250 homes in the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park communities. The barrels are manufactured out of 100% recycled plastic by RiverSides, a nonprofit environmental group. The RiverSides RiverSafe barrels are equipped with filters and diverters, and are enclosed to prevent mosquito larvae.

DC Greenworks rain barrelsThe barrels are placed near downspouts in order to capture the “first-flush” rooftop runoff, which contains the highest level of toxins from roofs, further reducing the negative environmental impact of heavy rainfall. The water collected can be used to wash cars, water gardens, and irrigate lawns. The rain barrel program is part of a multipronged approach used by DC Greenworks to improve the sustainability of DC communities. Other initiatives include green roofs, rain gardens/native habitat gardens, and urban gardening.