New Rain Gardens at Stoughton School

In addition to removing pollution, the new bio-retention basins are designed to beautify the school’s grounds and provide hands-on educational opportunity for the students.

The Joseph H. Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton is slated to receive a major green infrastructure upgrade thanks to a partnership between the Stoughton Engineering Department, the Neponset River Watershed Association (NepRWA), and MassDEP. Three bioretention basins and an infiltration basin, designed to collect and filter polluted stormwater runoff from the school’s parking lots, will be built beginning in the fall 2017.

Modern stormwater basins enhance rather than detract from an area’s natural appearance.


Infiltration and bioretention basins are like scaled-up versions of a rain garden that you might build in your front yard. However, there are some key differences between home rain gardens and the basins that will be built at the Gibbon’s school.

  • Infiltration basins are similar to rain gardens in that they are open on the bottom, allowing water to soak directly through the soil and into the ground, but they differ by whats on the surface. Rain gardens are typically full of native shrubs, trees, and flowers and are mulched much like a traditional garden, while infiltration basins are usually covered by a grassy lawn.
  • Bioretention basins appear very similar to rain gardens on the surface, full of lush shrubs and flowers. However, unlike rain gardens, bioretention basins have special fast draining filtration soil, a liner, and a drain on the bottom that is connected to the traditional storm drain system. Bioretention basins are used when a site’s soils aren’t loose enough to quickly soak the rain into the ground.

Increasingly, Stoughton and other communities in Eastern Massachusetts, are being required to reduce the amount of polluted runoff or “stormwater” that they discharge to local waterways.

“Stormwater runoff is a major source of water pollution in Stoughton,” said Ian Cooke, NepRWA’s Executive Director. “Every time it rains, stormwater washes all of the stuff that has accumulated on the streets into the nearest river or pond.  Stormwater basins, like the ones being built at the Gibbons School, are a great way to clean-up that pollution before it becomes a problem.”

Example of a rain garden.

The project is being designed by the staff at the Stoughton Engineering Department and funded by a grant from the Mass Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Neponset Watershed Association will carry out a local public education program, including working with students at the Gibbons School, as part of the project.

Marc Tisdelle, Stoughton Town Engineer said, “Our first priority when designing the basins is that they are safe for the students, and we also want them to be attractive and functional. A lot of thought went into making sure the basins will meet all of those goals.”

This green infrastructure project is fully funded through the Massachusetts Department of the Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 319 Grant Program, and will be completed by June 2018.


Chris Hirsch, Environmental Scientist

August 2017

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