Watershed BMP Problem Solver

Jan. 15, 2007

Broadous Elementary School is located in Pacoima, Calif., part of the Los Angeles River watershed. During heavy rains, the campus and surrounding areas were prone to dangerous flooding, which inconvenienced residents and kept students out of school. For several years, the school sustained annual losses as a result of this flooding and the subsequent student absences because certain state educational funds are attendance-based.

In 2003, the school was selected for remodeling by a multi-stakeholder group which included the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Department of Water and Power, Pacoima Beautiful, the City Council District and TreePeople, a group that inspires individuals and communities to plant trees and assume responsibility for improving the quality of their environment. The goal of this renovation was to create a sustainable and flood-free campus. As a part of this effort, several measures were taken to eliminate storm water problems and treat rainwater onsite.

An effective, space-saving solution

The group found a solution utilizing plastic chambers. After storm water is passed through a separator, pipes distribute it to the BMP retention field, which is made up of Recharger 330 Plastic Stormwater Chambers by Cultec, Inc. Approximately 220 of the in-line chambers were used to create the field, where water is retained until the surrounding soil can absorb it.

When water enters the chamber through the endwall, it travels downstream while passing through several Cultec Recharger chambers, creating an underground reservoir. Recharger chambers are available in four models (150,180, 280 and 330) that provide up to 418 gal of capacity per chamber. All models are available in heavy or standard-duty construction for strength and durability in traffic and non-traffic applications, and feature a higher profile that is ideal for large-volume or small-area applications. The lightweight units are easily installed by one or two workers to minimize labor costs and land disturbance. The chambers’ most unique feature may be its integral, fully formed endwall(s) that forestall the need for additional end plates or parts and the company’s patented rib connection for easy installation and strong connection.

“As an infiltration system, Cultec chambers may provide the highest removal rates of phosphorus, nitrogen, lead, zinc, suspended solids and organic carbons,” said Cultec CEO Robert DiTullio. “In comparison to wetlands, water quality ponds, filtering systems and water quality swales, our chambers represent a more effective and space-saving solution.”

Eliminating runoff problem

The Broadous retention field encompasses a 7,600-sq-ft area, with a capacity to hold over 95,000 gal of water. Resting on a base of drain rock and covered by another layer of rock, grassy playing fields have been built over the Recharger retention field and can now be enjoyed by the students, replacing an expanse of asphalt which contributed to the school’s runoff problems. Today, Broadous Elementary School is equipped to retain all average rainfalls on the site. And, while the students will never see the Cultec Recharger retention field below-ground that keeps their school flood-free, they will benefit from it, as well as the expansive new play area above, every day for years to come.

About the Author

Chris DiTullio