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Pulaski Park rain garden kicks off Water Environment Federation’s annual conference

by Jessi Prois
Oct 21, 2008

 Jessi Prois/Medill

 Diana Abdelfatta, Kelly High School Student, says she enjoys giving back to her community. 


Volunteers at Pulaski Park didn’t mess with a ribbon-cutting to commemorate a new rain garden on Saturday—they cut right through a garden hose.

The rain garden is a $7,000 corporate-sponsored project that will both beautify the park and absorb rainwater runoff from roof gutters, minimizing contaminants that enter storm sewers and open water.

“We are leaving behind a lovely environmental landscape that has a very practical function of mitigating storm water,” explained Jill Horist, public affairs manager for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

The event, called “Getting out of the Gutter,” was the kickoff to the Water Environment Federation’s annual conference. The federation is a Virginia-based international organization involved in water quality research, regulation and education. About 20,000 worldwide experts are meeting for the conference in Chicago through Wednesday to discuss water quality and what it will cost.

The rain garden will solve some of the problems the federation is discussing this week, explained Horist.

She is an advocate for rain gardens, which the Water Reclamation District is encouraging more communities to create.

“The Water District, in terms of its storm water management, is dedicated to public education in terms of what people can do in their own homes and communities to do storm mitigation and flood prevention,” she said.

The rain garden event was a way to involve the community in the federation’s mission, said Diane Crilley, senior manager.

“They wanted to do a hands-on project at the same time we were holding the conference,” Crilley explained.

The Pulaski Park event included booths explaining how rain gardens function and another encouraging people to test their own water.

“It’s just a way of understanding your environment around you, and then being responsible for it,” said Lauren Zuravnsky, an environmental engineer and member of Water Environment Young Professionals.

The conference includes 31 workshops, 115 technical sessions and 1,000 exhibiting companies. Major speakers include Mayor Daley and representatives who will discuss the sustainability and the environmental platforms of presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama.