$85,000 Grant Helps Stewart Memorial Do Their Part to Improve Water Quality in Calhoun County

Photo: Members of Calhoun County Soil and Water Conservation District present an $85,000 grant to The SMCH Foundation at their grand opening event November 14.

The Stewart Memorial Community Hospital Foundation received an $85,000 grant on November 14 from the Calhoun County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD.) The grant will be used to pay for several bioretention cells that were installed on the hospital’s property to manage stormwater as part of their Putting People First Renovation and Expansion Project.

“Bioretention cells are one of the most widely used practices for managing stormwater and protecting water quality,” said SMCH CEO Cindy Carstens. “They filter out many pollutants and reduce the risk of flash flooding and erosion, which can threaten our community’s infrastructure.”

On the surface, a bioretention cell appears as a depression in the landscaping, collecting runoff from impermeable surfaces like parking lots and streets. In most communities, dirty storm water flows into storm sewers and discharges into local bodies of water without treatment. Sediment, heavy metals, oils, greases, and bacteria are transported directly to urban streams. Bioretention cells will capture and break down these pollutants and slowly release cool, clean water.

“Large scale developments, like our recent renovation project, typically disturb and compact soils, reducing their ability to infiltrate water,” said SMCH Foundation Director Jesse Underwood. “By incorporating bioretention cells, we’ve offset this issue and will help improve water quality in our county for generations to come.”

Carstens added, “Not only does this element of our Putting People First Renovation Project put the people in our community first, but it puts the environment first as well.”

The Calhoun County Soil and Water Conservation District is a subdivision of state government that establishes conservation priorities and acceptable soil loss limits, resolves soil loss complaints, publishes annual reports, and approves soil conservation plans. Districts work to protect, conserve, and restore natural resources for present and future generations by actively seeking resources and partnerships to promote soil conservation and improve water quality in Calhoun County.

Photo: A bird’s eye view of Stewart Memorial shows placement of the five underground bioretention cells that were installed to improve water quality and control erosion.