Are the Raingardens Draining (As Intended) or Aren’t They?

SPU is now pumping out the Raingardens that are not draining. (How much does this cost?)

The big question though is how many Raingardens the City claim are functioning versus how many the residents claim are functioning.

SPU claims:
“1/2 of the cells are draining well — dry or less than 1-inch of water
1/8 of the cells are draining a bit – 2- 4 inches of water
1/4 of the cells had 4 – 6 inches of water
1/8 of the cells had more than 6 inches of water; one of those had 11 inches of water”

The daily reality as told by a resident:
“Since 11-7-10 I have recorded whether or not there is visible standing water in the six cells in front and to the side of my home. That is–data is recorded for 55 consecutive days with readings taken every evening at about 5:00 PM. Of those days 4 readings were inconclusive because the holes were obscured by snow. Of the remaining days (51)–this is what I recorded (moving north to south and around the corner heading east):

Cell #1–43 days (84%) of days there was standing water visible.

Cell #2–35 days (68%) of days there was standing water visible.

Cell #3–1 day (2%)–I guess the sandbags worked to keep the standing water out. I do not know what would have occurred had the sandbag not been there.

Cell #4–19 days (37%) of days there was standing water visible.

Cell #5 –2 days (4%) of days

Cell #6 –1 day (2%)

Conclusions:

1. I do not know how well cells 3, 5, and 6 perk water because there hasn’t been water draining into holes, perhaps because of sandbags and perhaps because the water flow diverts downhill across the street where there is consistent standing water every single day.

2. Cells 1 and 2 drain but too slowly–certainly not within the 72 hour limit. The city may say that’s because it keeps raining. But I say, “This is Seattle, of course it keeps raining this time of year.” But it’s not acceptable to me to having standing water in front of my home up to 85% of the time–even with sandbags in!

3. Cells 3 and 4 may work better but it remains inconclusive because sandbags still prevent most of the intended diversion of water from the street into the holes.

4. I need to continue to track this data and we need some more expert analysis of it. So far the city has not convinced me that they are reliable in their predictions of the performance of this project which does not bode well for the accuracy of their interpretations of future data–just my opinion though.”

From another affected resident:
“The city is not telling the truth, I see most of these rain gardens on a daily basis…maybe 1/8 of them are draining properly.”

And more conclusions provided by residents:

“We told the city about the hardpan – that the soil just does not drain, we know, we live here – have dug down 9 feet to the bottom of our house footing, it is like concrete. The city replied, ‘Oh no, you are wrong, the ground perks quite well, we tested it.’ Our water meter hole fills up with water after a rain – it takes 3–4 days to drain, it is only 12” deep….It is a good idea if done in the correct soil conditions. This was not the correct area. Do not dump any more money in this project. Fill in the ditches and give us back our once attractive street.”

“The truth is Ballard has a high water table, which is another reason these rain gardens continue to hold water. There are many under ground springs. Even if they are changed, they will cause basements to flood as you push more groundwater closer to the foundations of homes.”

“Having observed the test drills at the beginning of the project in our neighborhood (to determine the nature of the soil and its capacity to drain), I know that not all sites which now have a raingarden were tested. I believe that the city was negligent in not fully testing all sites under consideration, and this poor planning and execution resulted in raingardens doomed to fail. The nature of the soil and depth of the clay obviously differs from site to site. Some residents have observed this difference while working in their own property. So, some of the raingardens are draining, even with our heavy rains, which is fine…the concept is not without merit. However, it is becoming apparent that others will never drain.”

The question is what the City will do about non-draining Raingardens and ponds that are 11-inches deep when Spring arrives (three months from now) and mosquitos start breeding. One of the residents’ goals asks the City to remove the bump-out (and signage) if the Raingarden isn’t working. We’re waiting on the plan–and watch as they keep pumping–and wonder how much of that budget will be left to pay for removing the bump-out in the end.

(Picture is a Vactor pump truck.)

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