January & February2012
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Salvage & Stewardship Program Taking Shape

More than a dozen area auto salvage and recycling yards have volunteered for an innovative partnership to protect stormwater in the Ottawa River watershed. The Salvage & Stewardship program is operated by the City of Toledo in partnership with TMACOG and Tetra Tech. Funding is through a grant from the U.S. EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

According to records, an estimated 184 acres are being operated as auto salvage, metal recycling, and scrap yards within the Toledo city limits. TMACOG created a GIS system to identify the yards and map them in relation to water resources. Many of the facilities are clustered in industrial areas near the Ottawa River, recently the site of a major cleanup operation. Last year, the U.S. EPA removed tons of sediment that had been contaminated by PCBs, heavy metals, and other leftovers of the region’s industrial history. With this remediation complete, city officials and business people are focusing on keeping new contaminants out of the waterways. The goal of Salvage & Stewardship is to first minimize the amount of petroleum products, metals, antifreeze, and mercury that gets into the soil, and then to hold stormwater and treat it naturally on site rather than let rain and snowmelt carry chemicals into storm sewers and rivers.

The yard operators agreed to have stormwater engineers and specialists do an on-site visit of their facilities looking at what sort of materials were on hand, how stormwater was being managed, and proximity to creeks and rivers. Next, the team working for the Salvage & Stewardship program created a core plan for each facility. All of the plans outline good housekeeping measures that capture potential contaminants and provide protection from spills. The plans also provided the yards with help sheets describing specific strategies to address stormwater runoff. Because of yard proximity to waterways and storm drains, the team recommended structural, or treatment, strategies for two of the yards. These facilities – A-1 Auto Parts and R&M Recycling – were given free engineering plans for a bioswale and a bioretention area.

The bio-retention design is well-established as a pollution control measure. Chemical and biological processes occur in a bioretention system that address potentially dangerous chemicals. Filtration, sorption, degradation, and decomposition work to remove, sequester, or modify chemicals. In addition, the native plants in the swale take up potentially harmful chemicals through their roots and convert them into biomass.

At R&M Recycling, David Willett and his team built a long bioswale between an entrance drive and a tributary of the Ottawa River. Using plans designed by Tetra Tech engineers, Willet built the swale using tools and materials from his recycling yard. He graded the site by dragging an I-beam, distributed topsoil using a roll of old fencing, and broke up some bricks to slow the flow of water as it enters the swale. Marc Gerdeman, City of Toledo environmental specialist, is leading the Toledo program. He said, “David is showing that protecting water can be low-cost and practical. If he were to hire design engineers and professional landscapers, a bioswale like this could cost more than twenty thousand dollars. By using our plans and doing it himself, David’s only expenses were soil, mulch, and plants.” Gerdeman anticipates that the Salvage & Stewardship program will be a model of a low-cost, effective, stormwater management program that can be replicated in other situations.

“This is a solid group of owners with a commitment to Toledo,” said Gerdeman. “They are making a difference in water quality acre by acre, and they deserve some recognition.” The Salvage & Stewardship project will recognize those who participate in the program and take steps recommended in the core plan provided to them. Participants will receive an annual certificate and are entitled to use the Salvage & Stewardship logo on signage and on their websites.


David Willett of R & M Recycling. His staff built a bioswale using equipment they owned.

A new bioswale at R & M Recycling, showing native plants, permeable soil and mulch, protected from traffic by Jersey barriers. The Ottawa River is on the other side of the fence.


Gary Denis from A-1 Auto Parts. He and
his business partner are building a bioretention pond.

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