WEF Commits to Local Stewardship with 2018 Community Service Project

December 27, 2018

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Chris Marschinke, chair of the Students and Young Professionals Committee Community Service Project

Photo courtesy of Chris Marschinke.

Photo courtesy of Chris Marschinke.


Chris Marschinke, project manager at Trotter and Associates (St. Charles, Ill.), has been a member of the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) and the Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA) since 2010. He served as the WEFTEC 2018 Service Project chair. He also is the Illinois chair for CSWEA, and he has served as chair of the CSWEA Student Committee and as a member of the CSWEA Operations and Young Professionals committee.

In the historic and culturally vibrant neighborhood of Treme in New Orleans, the 11th annual Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Community Service Project kicked off another record-setting WEFTEC. On the grounds of the Treme Community Center, passionate water-sector volunteers donated their time and energy to leave the WEFTEC host city just a little nicer than they found it.

Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Service Project volunteers help improve infiltration by retrofitting a planter box with bioretention soil and modular retentions tanks. Photo courtesy of Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography.

Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) Service Project volunteers help improve infiltration by retrofitting a planter box with bioretention soil and modular retention tanks. Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography.

This year’s “Detain the Rain: The Treme Center Transformation” project created a 121 m2 (1300 ft2) stormwater planter to manage runoff, educate passersby, and beautify the space. More than 40 sponsors and donors made it possible to complete this project, which will become a focal point of the neighborhood. This year’s project, organized by the WEF Students and Young Professionals Committee (SYPC) and funded by sponsorships and donations, involved more than 175 volunteers from the local community and around the world.

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.

Detaining the rain in New Orleans

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 a 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.

Volunteers at the 2018 Service Project also helped create a mural that educates about water. Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography.

Volunteers at the 2018 Service Project also helped create a mural that educates about water. Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography.

The project also introduced a new component this year – an educational green infrastructure mural. The 1.8-m-by-3.7-m (6 ft-by-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 a 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.

More than 175 volunteers helped leave a green imprint on New Orleans during WEFTEC 2018. Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography.

More than 175 volunteers helped leave a green imprint on New Orleans during WEFTEC 2018. Photo courtesy of Natalie Keene Photography.

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.

As chair of the committee, I would like to send a special thank you to all the 2018 WEF Community Service Project partners, sponsors, donors and most importantly, the volunteers who made the project a reality once again.

I helped lead the 2018 WEF Community Service Project with fellow SYPC subcommittee co-chair Natalie Cook from Donohue & Associates (Sheboygan, Wis.), in Chicago.

Chris Marschinke, WEF Students and Young Professionals Committee

2018 WEF Service Project Gallery

Photos courtesy of Oscar & Associates.
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