"The St. Camillus campus footprint is 14 acres and 9 of those acres are impervious. Three years ago St. Camillus began to look at ways that we could cut back on the surge of stormwater and pollutants that flow off of our lands into the rivers and Bay. We knew it was our sacred duty to be good stewards of the land we live off of and this was one way that we could do that."
IPC worked with St. Camillus in November 2015 to help their parish understand the purpose - both ecological and theological - behind the 600-gallon runoff cistern they had installed at their property. But, IPC soon learned that the cistern was just one of many projects they had installed on their grounds. Truly living witnesses to our sacred duty to be faithful stewards of caring waters. Steve Smith, their facilities manager, put this summary together and we hope it inspires you to live into your call to be a faithful steward.
"The St. Camillus campus footprint is 14 acres and 9 of those acres are impervious. That means the parking lots, roofs and driveways surrounding the school, church, and friary are solid and do not let the rain soak into the ground. The rain that falls on the impervious surfaces creates a flood of water that picks up soil, trash, and other pollutants and sweeps them into the gutters, down the storm drains and into the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, into the Potomac and into the Chesapeake Bay.
Three years ago St. Camillus began to look at ways that we could cut back on the surge of stormwater and pollutants that flow off of our lands into the rivers and Bay. We knew it was our sacred duty to be good stewards of the land we live off of and this was one way that we could do that. When we began looking closely at the stormwater runoff we noticed that some of it was brown with soil being washed off of hillsides. We decided that we could tackle that problem and have an impact.
In 2014, we constructed a series of four conservation landscape areas on a hill stretching down from the church towards a large parking lot and the storm drains. Over two weekends, 120 parish volunteers dug and dug, toted dirt, rocks and compost and planted 400 native plants. These planting areas are now capturing rainwater flowing down the hillside, hold it temporarily and allow some of it to soak into the ground where the plants will absorb it and slowly allow the excess to flow down to the storm drains. These catchment areas have effectively reduced the soil erosion flowing into the streams. The materials for this project were funded from grants from Silver Spring Green and Montgomery County’s RainScapes Program. The volunteer hours all came from within the parish community: people who cared enough to help heal the Earth – God’s Earth. The 120 volunteers donated nearly 700 hours of time to this effort – It took the Village.
This past September we tackled the erosion flowing off of the hillside outside our school gym. Over the years rain running off the hill had removed as much as four inches of topsoil making the hillside unable to support plant life, accelerating the pace and size of the erosion. In a single day, 55 volunteers moved the equivalent of 3 dump truck loads of soil and compost up the hill by bucket brigades, filled 200 feet of mesh fabric tubes with compost and placed them across the hillside to hold back rain runoff and erosion. Then they planted nearly 700 ground cover plants to stabilize the newly emplaced soil. This project was particularly instructive in that the three truckloads of soil painstakingly carried up that hillside represented approximately what had been slowly and almost imperceptibly washed down the hill over several decades. Materials for this project were partially funded by a grant from Silver Spring Green.
Most recently, in November 2015, a 600-gallon above ground cistern was installed by Anacostia Riverkeepers with funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and Montgomery County Rainscapes Program. This tank will divert rainwater from the downspout on the gym. This will slow the flow of water into the streams and will hold it for use in watering the newly installed plants.
Shortly after the cistern was installed, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake offered an educational workshop at our church. For many of the attendees, they learned about “cisterns” for the first time. Part of the workshop discussed our “Circles of Influence” and how we can’t change things we can’t control, but if we work within our circles of influence, we can spark change that impacts others and has a ripple effect. By living out our call to stewardship at St. Camillus, we’re working within our circle of influence. We’re changing the things we can, inspiring others to think differently and learn new things about watershed stewardship, and trusting that our acts of Creation Care within our circle of influence will contribute to a greater movement across the region.
In addition to the environment being renewed by these projects, our parish community and individual members were renewed spiritually and intrinsically through working together and with the earth."