A summer construction schedule is delivering a new athletic field for St. Paul’s Como Park High School, complete with top of the line artificial turf and a surprising ecological benefit: a natural way to keep runoff from area streets from reaching nearby Lake Como.
As reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the new Como Park field is being laid on top of 15 enormous perforated pipes, which include thousands of small holes to allow runoff that comes in with stormwater through to the ground, where it will be naturally filtered. The engineered aeration will filter water that is diverted from school grounds and Rose Avenue, which runs alongside the campus, and will keep pollutants like oil and trash from directly reaching the lake.
“This is part of our role as being good stewards on our land,” Facilities manager for St. Paul Public Schools Tom Parent told the Pioneer Press. “It’s very much a win-win for us.”
The innovative — and simple — design adjustment could be significant in attempts to keep Lake Como clean. St. Paul separates street water and sanitation water, which contains sewage. Unlike sanitation water, street water does receive treatment from the city’s water treatment plant. Instead, it’s hoped that the soil will naturally absorb some of the damaging elements which are picked up with dirty groundwater.
That doesn’t always happen, which is how pollution flows into Lake Como. Now, the new field could ease the natural burden that falls on the area whenever heavy storms arrive.
The win-win aspect of the project comes from the split funding behind the pipes between the school district, watershed district and city; per reports, the school district will pay $250,000 (essentially, the cost of the pipes, which would have run a similar cost if different varieties were used), the watershed district will pay $200,000, and the city will pay $150,000 to make up the entire $600,000 outlay.
The biggest beneficiaries of the work will be residents around the school, and in a larger swath of St. Paul where the rainwater is diverted to be filtered by the pipes, all while Como Park student athletes play above them on a brand new turf field.