HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Just one large pin oak tree in your local park can hold about 20,000 gallons of water.
If you multiply that by hundreds, you can see why trees and plants hold a key to flood prevention. That's why the city of Huntington is launching a major project called rain gardens designed to curb downtown street flooding and the pollution of local streams and rivers.
Katheryn Earl grew up in Huntington and considers it the most beautiful city around. So, when trees were planted Tuesday along her block on Huntington Avenue, she was especially delighted.
“They’re so pretty and make the street look so nice and neat,” Earl said.
But, this tree planting project isn't just about beauty. The trees also will help control major nuisance street flooding.
“A lot of it is because we have a combined sewer system and whenever the storm water comes, it flushes into our sanitary system and washes raw sewage up into basements, streets and streams, said Jennifer Williams, project manager of the city's Storm Sewer Mitigation Project.
That's why the EPA fined the city of Huntington big bucks. So, Williams is heading up Huntington's Storm Water Mitigation Project. In a compromise with the EPA, the city is launching several environmental projects to help curb the problem, starting with 100 new trees planted around the Southside.
“People don't really think about trees when it comes to storm water mitigation," Williams said. "But, they hold the earth down with their roots and soak up a lot of the storm water."
Another solution is rain gardens; a giant one is planned for Harris Riverfront Park.
“Rain gardens are an indention in the ground so can run your downspouts into the garden and they soak up water and pollutants,” Williams said.
For residents like Earl, it's a dual benefit of beauty and function.
Williams said in 2007, it was quoted it would cost the city nearly $650 million to separate the storm water and sewer system and bring it to where it needs to be.
These environmental solutions are considerably cheaper. The trees were made possible by a donation from local resident, Sterling Hall, and a matching grant from the Arbor Foundation.