The adverse impacts of urbanization on Juneau’s Jordan Creek have long been suspected. With support from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), we wrapped up a study that quantified those impacts last spring. This winter we’re getting ready to do something about the problem.

Each year tons of sediment laden with heavy metals and hydrocarbons makes its way to Jordan Creek as urban stormwater runoff. This muddy, oil-sheen covered water flows across parking lots, down ditches, and through pipes to deliver a cocktail of harmful pollutants like lead, copper, zinc and petroleum-based hydrocarbons to a stream that’s home to salmon and other fishes. Having mapped where this runoff originates and estimated the quantity of pollutants flowing to the stream, we can start the work of treating runoff before it reaches Jordan Creek.

The secret to cleaning polluted urban runoff is to route the water into green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). GSI can look like a run-of-the-mill vegetated ditch (a bioswale) or a highly engineered bioretention facility. The latter uses plants and a special bioretention soil mix to capture pollutants or even transform them into harmless compounds. The treated runoff either infiltrates the ground or continues its way to the stream in the conventional stormwater system.

This spring SAWC is partnering with several landowners to construct 4 different types of GSI in the Lower Jordan Creek watershed. The project is funded by ADEC and once completed, will remove over 13,000 pounds of sediment and associated pollutants from stormwater runoff each year. Keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for project updates.