Bioretention opportunities

May 18, 2018 -  By

Bioretention areas are mandated by sewer districts in some places, like St. Louis. (Photo: Bluegrass Landscape & Snow Management)

New regulations from the local sewer district on adding bioretention areas to make up for lost green space inspired Bluegrass Landscape & Snow Management, based in Bridgeton, Mo., to make the leap into the field. It’s been a big investment of both time and money to get into bioretention—but it’s been paying off.

Chris Darnell, business development and marketing manager for Bluegrass, says because of these new requirements, bioretention is a service poised for growth. The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District regulations say any new property that’s displacing green space must make up for it because dirt, oil or trash that collect in parking lots or other hardscaped areas can be carried by stormwater runoff into a storm sewer—eventually reaching local bodies of water. Bioretention areas prevent that runoff. These depressed landscape zones include vegetation, organic soil and a graded filter of sands and gravel below the soil for proper drainage. The areas contain a perforated underdrain pipe beneath the filter to ensure the area drains properly and an overflow structure to handle water from larger storms.

Darnell says the company first got involved with bioretention about three years ago. Bluegrass has primarily offered bioretention maintenance—39 of its customers have one or more bioretention areas, totaling about 126 bioretention ponds—but it plans to get into more installations. The company has marketed the service through video, its website, blog posts, brochures and a direct mail postcard.

To get started, the company sent one of its employees, Shonda Lucks, to North Carolina State University to complete a Stormwater BMP Inspection & Maintenance Certification. The first certification involves two days of training, with additional two-day recertification trainings every two years. Lucks is now in charge of the company’s bioretention department, performing all inspections, creating work orders, selling new maintenance plans and training crew members.

The service has required a lot of training to ensure the areas are maintained properly. Because bioretention areas are so expensive to install, it’s imperative that maintenance mistakes are not made, Darnell says. For instance, a common landscape mistake might be confusing native plants for weeds and pulling them out as a result. It’s essential that staff are trained to know the difference between the two.

Darnell says the investment to get involved with bioretention hasn’t been small. The company has likely invested as much as $50,000, including marketing materials, training resources for Lucks and other crew members and educational materials to help customers understand the purpose of bioretention areas.

As the service becomes increasingly in demand, Bluegrass is seeing that investment pay off.

The biggest challenge is keeping up with ever-changing information.

“What we knew three years ago has already changed so much,” Darnell says. “Whether it’s best practices or specific requirements—that information seems to always be evolving. But keeping up with what’s new is critical.”

While it requires diligence, Darnell says this service addition has been valuable for the company. It’s a niche that many companies have not delved into, and it’s made Bluegrass a “single-source provider,” which was a goal.

“Being able to handle all of our customers’ needs from A to Z is incredibly important to us,” Darnell says. “The client doesn’t have to create more relationships or seek help elsewhere when we can do it all.”

Check out the below video Bluegrass Landscape produced about bioretention areas.


Featured Photo: Bluegrass Landscape & Snow Management

About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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