Rain gardens get go ahead for developers, Burnaby still behind


By Alyd Llewellyn

Rain gardens are being implemented in the four major town centres of Burnaby. These rain gardens sit near Brentwood town centre. Photo by Alyd Llewellyn.

Burnaby advocates who work to protect the city’s water streams say the city should be doing more to help manage the destructive effect water run-off is having on local streams and rivers.

Rain gardens are now being required to be put in by developers in certain locations in Burnaby. Photo by Alyd Llewellyn.

Members of the Burnaby Streamkeepers, an organization made up of local residents who help maintain various streams around Burnaby, are concerned with the city’s current drainage system.

“All of this water comes off the road and is not treated in any way so it carries all sorts of pollutants like copper, petrol products like gasoline, anti-freeze, stuff like that. This toxic spew that comes off the road is particularly harmful to salmon,” said Paul Cipywnyk, a Burnaby streamkeeper.

Main plan to implement green filtration

The streamkeepers met with City of Burnaby employees this fall to discuss the city’s plan to improve water filtration. The city’s main technical solution is a ditch drainage system referred to as rain gardens. A rain garden is a swale that runs alongside sidewalks and that absorbs large quantities of water before shipping it off through drainpipes.

Rain gardens help filter impurities out of water before they reenter local rivers and streams. Photo by Alyd Llewellyn.

Although the city is demanding that developers put in these kinds of drainage systems in select locations, the city itself is refusing to do so on its own roads. Currently rain gardens are only required in major redevelopments within the four main town centres of Burnaby. The costs for construction rest entirely with the development companies.

Uncertainty of effectiveness halting city

The city itself has yet to build any rain gardens of its own. According to Mark Sloat, an environmental planner for Burnaby, rain gardens are still new enough that the city has questions as to how well they’ll work in the long term.

“Municipalities know how to maintain pipes and that traditional infrastructure, but more with the green infrastructure, the plants and so on, there are questions on how to maintain it,” said Sloat.

Cipywnyk thinks that’s just an excuse.

 “Other municipalities like Delta are putting in rain gardens left right and centre and they don’t seem to be having any trouble with that.”

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