Medstar Harbor Hospital (MHH), one of two waterfront hospitals in Maryland, sits on a 30-acre campus directly on the Patapsco River. An extensive lawn and numerous parking lots had for years caused rainwater and pollution to flow off the property directly into the river, and subsequently into the Chesapeake Bay. As part of a 15-year sustainability effort, MHH began work with Blue Water Baltimore on the Clean Water Community Healing Project in 2016, and most projects were fully completed by 2019.
This project is the largest private voluntary stormwater restoration project in Baltimore’s history and has reduced stormwater runoff, transformed an urban waterfront with conservation landscaping, and increased the urban tree canopy. Important to the Hospital, the project has also engaged the community on the important links between environmental and public health—all in a historically marginalized, highly visible, and highly utilized area of Baltimore.
The Clean Water Community Healing Project retrofitted the hospital’s four major parking lots with two rain gardens, twelve bioretention areas, over 16,000 square feet of conservation landscaping and almost 100 new trees. Native plants from Herring Run Nursery continue to be planted as MHH’s conservation landscape plans expand. The hospital previously had no stormwater management facilities and championed the work as a voluntary restoration project to help restore local water quality.
Brian K. Gray, Director of Clinical Engineering & Environment of Care, says that “Learning…that our storm water from this campus…was going directly into the Patapsco River which we sit on. That really lit us up. We felt like it was our obligation to move forward. We had to do something.”
Prior to the Clean Water project, the MHH campus had over 12.6 acres of impervious surface. Our team removed 1.2 acres of impervious cover and installed green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), which you can read more about here. The new, pervious GSI effectively treats 5.2 acres of impervious surface, with estimated annual load reductions of 39 pounds of nitrogen, 6 pounds of phosphorus, and 1.2 tons of sediment. The project also improved pedestrian safety and ADA accessibility, created educational signage about pollinators and GSI, and created an area to sit and look out over the water called the Healing Gardens.
Gray notes that “Blue Water Baltimore was instrumental in the Healing Gardens. The back lawn leading to the Patapsco is very dense, and water puddled a lot in heavy rain. Having the gardens out there helps with absorbing those really, really wet conditions and keeps water from washing over the Gwynns Falls trail.”
Since installation, MHH has continued to work on their conservation landscaping using native plants from Herring Run Nursery. Next up for Medstar Harbor Hospital? Gray says that they’re “also looking at a living shoreline. It’s incredibly important for others to jump on to this initiative. Learn about the Trash Wheel, learn about the outfalls and where this trash is coming from. Get involved and try to do your part.”
Planning and design were fully funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust and construction was funded through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. SMC (formerly Stormwater Maintenance & Consulting), CityScape Engineering, Plisko Sustainable Solutions, SBC Landscaping, Rain Underground, Blue Water Baltimore, and Medstar Harbor Hospital’s collaboration on this project provides an excellent model for voluntary stormwater restoration. For more information about Green Stormwater Infrastructure in the Baltimore region, check out our 2019 GSI Report.