By SYP Subcommittee Co-Chairs Chris Marschinke of Trotter & Associates in St. Charles, Illinois and Natalie Cook of Donohue & Associates in Chicago, Illinois

In the historic and culturally vibrant neighborhood of Treme, the 11th Annual WEF Community Service Project kicked off another record-setting WEFTEC Conference. On the grounds of the Treme Community Center, more than 175 volunteer WEF members from across the country once again donated their time and energy to leave WEFTEC’s host city just a little bit nicer than they found it. 

Being at the heart of the neighborhood meant the 2018 service project was one of the most visible to date. Every detail required the cooperation of the City of New Orleans, the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, as well as suppliers, vendors, and contractors.

Detain the Rain: The Treme Center Transformation

This year’s project created a 121 m2 (1300 ft2) stormwater planter to manage runoff, educate passersby, and beautify the space. Previously, downspouts from the Treme Community Center’s 1394-m2 (15,000-ft2) roof discharged directly to a planter box on a slope, which overflowed to nearby streets. As with most of New Orleans, the neighborhood experienced significant flooding during rain events, with impervious areas exacerbating the issue.

As part of the project, the center’s downspouts were disconnected and rerouted to the planter box. The planter was constructed with bioretention soil and modular retentions tanks and planted with native vegetation. It will help alleviate local flooding by detaining runoff before it can discharge to the city’s stormwater system. 

The project also introduced a new component this year – an educational green infrastructure mural. The 1.8-m (6 ft)-by-3.7-m (12 ft) mural was painted by WEF volunteers to depict New Orleans waterways, landmarks, and Treme culture. Informational text within the graphic educates the community about the importance of water and empowers the next generation of water stewards.

The volunteers’ hard work led to the project’s completion ahead of schedule, and 100 members from the WEF House of Delegates arrived just as the work was finishing. The volunteers and WEF leaders had an opportunity to network with each other. Jenny Hartfelder, 2017-2018 WEF president; Anna Patterson, Sewerage and Water Board senior city planner; and Tyler Antrup, New Orleans Urban Water Program manager, led the group in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, dedicating the project to the surrounding community. Hartfelder emphasized the need to promote environmental stewardship at the local level and explained how the service project provides an excellent example of local stewardship. 

Maintaining the Legacy

While the project was completed in 8 hours, the site selection, design, approval, and permitting processes took more than a year to complete. For each service project, a partner firm within the local community designs improvements to be built by volunteers. Dana Brown and Associates (New Orleans) once again provided this invaluable service in New Orleans. The company also assisted during construction with an onsite crew of their own.  

Maintaining each site has become vital to the continued success of the projects. The SYPC Service Project subcommittee has begun contracting with local nonprofit organizations and landscapers to provide annual maintenance of past sites as funding allows. These maintenance efforts are made possible by Water Charities Fundraising (New York), one of the service project’s principal donors. This nonprofit organization also hosts the annual Jammin’4Water charity event that occurs during WEFTEC. 

Thank You to All of Our Sponsors and Donors!!

A special thanks go out to all of the 2018 WEF Community Service Project partners, sponsors, donors and most importantly, the volunteers who made it a reality once again!

City of New Orleans Office of Resilience + Sustainability, Dana Brown & Associates, Inc. and Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans

Sponsors: AECOM, Arcadis, Black & Veatch, Carollo Engineers, CDM Smith, Greeley and Hansen, Hazen and Sawyer, Jacobs, Mott MacDonald, Stantec Consulting, and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

Donors: AECOM/Parsons Joint Venture, Central States Water Environment Association, DC Water, Duperon Corporation, Hach, Illinois Water Environment Association, Lotus Water, Michael Baker International, Trotter and Associates, Inc., Waggonner & Ball, Water Charities Fundraising, Water Environment Association of Texas, World Water Works, Inc.

In-Kind Support: AE2S, Black Pearl Catering Co., City of New Orleans Office of Resilience + Sustainability, Construction EcoServices, Dana Brown & Associates, Inc.,  Louisiana Growers, Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans, Three C's Properties, Trihydro, Wood Materials

WEFTEC Now: #WEFTEC18 Community Service Project

 Adding native plants to the bioswale.


 Volunteers painting a section of the green infrastructure graphic.


 Adding the final touches to the 1,300 sf bioswale.


A HUGE THANK YOU goes out to all of our amazing volunteers!

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