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On 21st March 2013 I drove down Victoria Road Marrickville & saw earth-moving equipment with Marrickville Council workers digging up the swale on the bushpocket site. I returned at the end of the day specifically to have a close look. The swale had been totally removed & what was left in its place was a large hole, a flattened area that looked suspiciously like a footpath & paint markings on the dirt also looking like the outline of a footpath.
As Marrickville Council have recently built what I call ‘a footpath to nowhere’ under the railway bridge & around the curve of Victoria Road to Myrtle Street, I assumed the swale was destroyed for an extension of this footpath.
The ‘footpath to nowhere’ ends in Myrtle Street where street trees start. To continue the footpath three good-sized street trees planted around 8 to 10-years-ago will probably need to be removed. That is unless Council make the footpath thinner in this area, but I doubt they will because the rest of it is wide & they tend to like wide paths.
There is a footpath on the opposite side of both Victoria Road & Myrtle Street so pedestrians are okay. There has never been a footpath on the other side of this section of Victoria Road that I am aware of. The area is located beside the goods line & coupled with the hill, made an excellent site for a swale & a bushpocket. There are also 3-4 large mature trees here that screen the railway line.
The swale is a major part of the Victoria Road Bushpocket site. It was built by Marrickville Council in 2009 as part of a community environmental initiative led by local resident Micheal Easton & supported by other local residents. The residents met regularly to plant, weed & clean the bushpocket site. Together they transformed it from a relatively empty, verging on an unsightly litter-attracting patch of land to something that was green, functional & quite lovely.
Council even installed a park bench placed under the shade of a tree. The pathways were loose gravel & it was nice to walk here & have a look to see what was in flower at the time. In March 2011, the project was handed back to Marrickville Council who said they would continue to manage the bushpocket.
Apparently the swale has been destroyed to accommodate a bicycle path. As a cyclist, I think a bike paths are very important & much needed. I question however, with this section of Victoria Road being so wide & already a Council designated on-road cycle route, why Council would need to destroy a swale that was part of local stormwater management & important for biodiversity. The swale was built in this location to capture & clean stormwater before it entered the Cooks River, less than a kilometer away.
Something else to consider is that the bushpocket was thriving & great for biodiversity & habitat creation. Now we will have yet more concrete.
If it costs Council $1,000 to plant a sapling, imagine how much the Bushpocket & swale cost to create & manage & how much it cost to remove it.
This is a brilliant video from Tree People – a community tree-planting group operating in Los Angeles. It is narrated by Andy Lipkis the founder of Tree People who clearly explains how trees affect our water system.
He explains how fallen leaves make mulch, which feeds the soil & encourages microbes & small creatures to live within the root system. This eventually becomes humus, new soil, incredibly important since the world is rapidly losing topsoil vital for growing food & almost everything else.
The video shows how trees capture rain & stops it becoming stormwater, instead feeding the aquifer. Stormwater on the other hand becomes polluted water when it picks up oils, chemicals & other stuff on hard ground surfaces before taking this water to local creeks, streams, lakes & in our case, the Cooks River & the Alexander Canal.
Interfering with this cycle by covering the ground with impervious surfaces in urban areas has interrupted the watershed & caused not only problems with polluting our water systems, but stormwater also predisposes us to floods.
Stormwater is wasted water & costs the community millions of dollars every year.
Andy Lipkin shows the process & the economic cost for Los Angeles & links this all to climate change. Rain gardens, swales, roof water collection all replenish the groundwater & prevent all the problems that go with stormwater runoff.
Tree People aim to transform the landscape of Los Angeles by simply increasing the tree canopy & transforming streets with rain-collecting gardens that make the area functional, low maintenance, great for the urban wildlife, as well as good to look at. All that is being done in Los Angeles can be done here in Marrickville LGA.
The residents of Chippendale are doing something very similar under the guidance of Michael Mobbs & with the full support of the City of Sydney Council. The aim is to capture all the stormwater in this area of Chippendale for use by the residents who will end up having substantially less water bills. I’ll revisit what is happening in Chippendale at a later date.
You can watch the video here -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJqUEv_DwMA&feature=youtu.be
Local resident Valentina Mickovska kindly allowed me to post her amazing photo of the carpet of plastic bottles & other items of plastic floating on the Cooks River at Tempe Reserve. The photo was taken early yesterday when the Cooks River flooded.
Undoubtedly, much of the masses of garbage trapped in the rocks that surround Tempe Reserve were dislodged in the flood, but I also think that this floating mess could have added to via stormwater drains. This photo clearly shows the need for a floating collection boom in this area to stop this kind of litter from fully entering the Cooks River ecosystem.
I have been surprised to see just how many stormwater drains enter the Cooks River without any means of collecting garbage attached to them. In my opinion, no stormwater drain should be allowed to empty into the river without a collection devise that prevents plastic bottles, plastic bags & other litter from being flushed into the river uncontested. Not just in Marrickville LGA, but also in all the Councils lucky enough to have the Cooks River flowing through their municipality.
Making this change should not be too costly for the Councils to implement. The collection booms would go a long way in supporting both the Councils & the community’s ongoing attempts to clean up the river. Preventing stormwater litter from entering the Cooks River would also have an immense benefit for local wildlife that live & feed on the river.
We also need a bottle return program because people are less likely to litter when they can get money for returning the bottle.
Most of you will know that the Cooks River flooded yesterday morning. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo to share, but the really large floating carpet of plastic bottles & other garbage at the harbour at Tempe Reserve was truly shocking, especially as most of the park was left sparkling clean from last Sunday’s community clean up event.
I suspect these bottles came from our stormwater drains which collect litter dropped in the streets. The Cooks River Catchment areas reaches even as far away as Newtown. There is no stormwater collection boom here at Tempe so this floating garbage will probably be taken by the tide throughout the river system until it is either trapped or sinks.
Earlier this year I was caught in Tempe Reserve during a storm & had the pleasure of watching stormwater carry masses of litter from the Ring of Figs & the area around the picnic kiosks down the hill & into the Cooks River. What litter is dropped in the park just needs rain or strong wind to make it part of the ecosystem of the river. The rubbish literally floated down to the river. Knowing this we should all do our best not to drop litter because more than likely it is going to end up polluting the Cooks River & affecting the wildlife.
The Balmain Village Voice published 20 great photos of the Cooks River flooding of Steel Park, Illawarra Road & Wharf Road Marrickville South yesterday. See - http://balmain-village-voice.whereilive.com.au/photos/gallery/marrickville-floods/
On a steaming hot day last October we went to see the recently completed Johnston Street Bioretention Basin at Earlwood & go for a walk around Illoura Reserve.
The bioretention basin was much larger & more interesting than I expected. The bush at this location was also a surprise being quite different than other areas of Wolli Creek that I have walked. The trees were gorgeous. Towering Red Gums & Turpentine trees lead into the bush & the dreaded Privet was blooming so the air smelt nice.
We went back again today just to see how much the plants in the basin had grown after all this rain we had. It was as expected, lush & green. What wasn’t expected was all the work done by the volunteers of the Wolli Creek Preservation Society. Signs say they are regenerating the bush around the basin. They had opened up a pathway that allowed us to walk right around the basin & up to the Red Gums. It is so nice being in bushland. That it is so close to Marrickville LGA makes us very lucky in my opinion.
I had not heard of swales & bioretention basins until after starting SoT, so here is a brief rundown of what they do & some stats about this particular basin. A bioretention basin is constructed to manage & clean stormwater before it enters creeks or rivers. Stormwater enters our waterways at a terrific pace. This can erode the bank in places, but also erode the bottom of the watercourse. Stormwater also delivers an enormous amount of pollution to our waterways – nitrogen, phosphorus, heavy metals & fine sediments. All these have a detrimental effect the water quality of our rivers & creeks.
A bioretention basin is really a scooped out landscaped area of land that can be big or small. They generally contain 3 layers: course sand or pea gravel at the bottom, another layer of sand in the middle & sandy loam at the top.
The idea is that stormwater from our streets is directed to the bioretention basin where it literally percolates through these levels. This not only slows the stormwater, but it also cleans it of oils & other substances that comes off our roads. The cleaned water is either allowed to seep naturally into the ground to make its way to the river, or channeled via a pipe or pipes at the lowest layer as it is in this case.
Finally the surface of the basin is planted with native grasses & small shrubs. The plants need to be able to tolerate water as well as periods where the basin is dry. Swales work on the same principle, but rather than a shape of a basin they look similar to a rocky creek bed. The Johnston Street Bioretention Basin also includes a long wide swale running downhill beside the basin. There is a large pipe that directs water from the basin to the bottom of the swale.
The Johnston Street Bioretention Basin, built by Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority, is expected to remove approximately 2,353 kg of sediment & 13kg of nitrogen annually before it enters Wolli Creek, which flows into the Cooks River & on to Botany Bay. Their sign says that the system is designed to remove 100% of gross pollutants, 79% total suspended solids, 57% total phosphorus & 30% total nitrogen. It’s beautiful & a terrific boon for the environment. It’s also well worth a visit.
I made a short video of the Johnston Street Bioretention Basin & Illoura Reserve here – http://bit.ly/uPLiQX
The Cooks River Valley Association got some much-needed attention to their ongoing work to try & clean up the Cooks River yesterday. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald spoke about research done on the water quality by researchers at the University of NSW.
The researchers found, “pharmaceuticals including paracetamol, ibuprofen & ingredients from aspirin tablets along with trace elements of soaps, caffeine, insect repellent & household cosmetics. The surprising thing is that there is no sewage treatment plant anywhere along the river. This tells us that the sewers are constantly broken & leaking all along the river. The fact the chemicals were present at dry times as well as during periods of heavy rainfall indicate the problem was one of constant leakage rather than occasional overflows.” http://www.smh.com.au/environment/study-keeps-up-stink-over-polluted-river-20111023-1meii.html
I remember the shock I felt in a Council Meeting when a member of the community addressing the Councillors mentioned that faecal bacteria is often found in the Cooks River. He said that many of the old sewerage pipes in the area are cracked or broken & that they leak raw sewerage all the time. What you put down your sink or toilet at home does reach the Cooks River, as does everything that goes down stormwater drains. Even as far away as Newtown the stormwater catchment heads toward the Cooks River.
Community group, the Cooks River Valley Association, perform a number of activities that care for the river. Volunteers are always welcome to join in on regular bush regeneration work with Mudcrabs & for Streamwatch who regularly test & monitor the water quality from a number of sites along the river. Full training & ongoing support is given to Streamwatch volunteers.
There is also Cooks Eye, another part of the monitoring of the river. ‘Cooks Eye’ refers to the community as they are the one’s most likely to notice pollution in or near the river & help catch it early. The Cooks Eye posters are all the way along the Cooks River from the Alexandra Canal in Tempe Reserve & down towards Hurlstone Park & have phone numbers of who to contact if you see any pollution in the river. I became a ‘poster gal’ for Cooks Eye a while ago. This means that I look after an area of the Cooks River & check to see that the posters are still there, aren’t vandalized & replace them when necessary. This is such an easy volunteer job & more people are needed to help with this.
We can all do something to help the Cooks River, whether it is being careful not to put anything down our drains that shouldn’t go there or joining one of the volunteer groups that actively work to improve the river environment & water quality. Everything we do to help the river helps all the wildlife that lives on the river. Contact details for The Cooks River Valley Association are on the blogroll on the left of this page.
Another article on the subject by ABC news – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-24/sydney-river-given-open-sewer-status/3596832?section=nsw