National Grid to fund rain gardens along river

Posted September 22, 2010 10:04 am

By Kaileigh Higgins, Globe Correspondent

National Grid will be funding a mitigation project to construct three rain gardens along the edges of the Malden River as part of an agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection..

The agreement comes as a result of the release of drilling fluid into the Malden River during a project that involved installing power cables 60 feet below the surface in 2009. The release of bentonite clay and water was a violation of wetlands and water quality and posed a potential threat to the surrounding wildlife.

National Grid has agreed to clean up the fluid and conduct post cleanup monitoring (per review of MassDEP) of the area in addition to the $11,500 Supplemental Environmental Project in lieu of a $5,750 penalty.

The original project, which consisted of horizontal drilling to replace power, went awry on Dec. 3, 2009 when unexpected fractures in the soil caused the leakage of drilling fluids.

“While we encourage the use of horizontal-drilling as an alternative to traditional dredging projects for these types of crossings, we want companies to exercise extreme caution to avoid having damaging releases to the environment,” said Glenn Haas, MassDEP’s assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Resource Protection in a statement. “There is an inherent risk in any project like this, but accidents are preventable if careful planning and execution are paramount.”

For the SEP, National Grid will provide funding over the next several months for Groundwork Somerville, a Somerville-based non-profit, to build three rain gardens areas along the Malden River in Everett and Malden. These gardens will help to decrease runoff pollution from storm water. In addition, signage will be built along the Malden River’s Sea Bike Trail.

The proposed rain gardens are in the planning stages now, according to Groundwork Somerville’s Mystic River Projects Manager Brad Arndt. They have begun focusing on design elements, working with a landscape architect.

Construction is scheduled to begin by next spring, but possibly won’t get underway until next fall. Start time for construction depends on the completion of a project removing train rails by the Iron Horse Preservation Society in the same area.

The rain gardens will bring some much needed change to this section of the Malden River.

“Not only will it be an aesthetic improvement, it is also going to help address drainage issues in that section,” said Arndt. “This is also opportunity to improve the ecological diversity;  we’ll be using native plants in the gardens.”

Once work on the gardens begins, Groundwork Somerville will be involving the surrounding communities in its efforts.

“This is not a huge project,  but it is a huge opportunity to involve a lot of different players, especailly with the community,” said Arndt. “We want to garner actual volunteers and support from the community. Contruction will hinge on community volunteer involvement.”

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