In Chicago, flooding is more than just a nuisance, it is an environmental justice problem.
The areas with the most flooding are the South and West sides of the city, which are predominately Black and Latino neighborhoods.
Repeated basement flooding leads to increased repair costs and mold, which exacerbate existing respiratory problems caused by other airborne pollutants. Residents in these areas are already at a higher risk for airborne pollution due to their close proximity to factories, power plants, and highways.
Not only that, but sewer backups also occur when the combined sewer system is overwhelmed with waste water during storms and spring snow melt. It’s an embarrassing and degrading issue that people don’t want to talk about.
What if this didn’t have to be the reality? Dream with us for a moment.
Imagine walking down the street of a neighborhood prone to basement flooding and seeing brightly colored rain barrels painted by children and local artists in the community in the yard of every home.
Imagine walking out to a church parking lot made of porous material during a summer thunderstorm. Rather than water rushing across the parking lot surface and carrying contaminants from vehicles and roadways directly into nearby waterways, the water slowly filters through the ground and recharges the water table.
Imagine a synagogue auditing their water usage, fixing leaky plumbing, and installing faucet aerators and to conserve water.
Imagine a rain garden planted next to a mosque that beautifies the neighborhood, provides habitat for birds and butterflies, and has plants with deep roots that absorb and filter water.
Imagine people gathered in a religious education classroom to learn together what their faith traditions have to say about the ethical implications of our water use.
We don’t have to just dream. Let’s make this beautiful vision a reality at our houses of worship and in our communities!
We are excited to introduce Ramont (Ray) Bell as the new Outreach Coordinator for our Water Preservation Program.
Combining his passion for social justice and environmental issues with his technical expertise from his experience working in various engineering positions with AT&T, Ray helps houses of worship in the Calumet region make this vision come to fruition.
Ray is working this year with five faith communities on intensive water preservation projects including water audits, building retrofits, facility water usage plans, rain gardens, and green infrastructure planning.
In collaboration with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD), Faith in Place is also giving away 500 free rain barrels to individuals and houses of worship in the Calumet region this year.
We believe that Houses of Worship are the backbones of their communities. The impact that a single action can have is multiplied by the individuals who take what they learn from leaders at their faith community and implement it at home.
When entire communities work together to implement green infrastructure projects, thousands of gallons of water are absorbed into the ground more slowly by plants in rain gardens, and collected for later use in rain barrels and cisterns. With less volume of water flowing across the surface of the land, the risk of basement flooding is greatly reduced.
One 55 gallon rain barrel alone can divert 3,270 gallons of runoff water during one rainy season.
When that figure is multiplied by the 500 rain barrels that will be installed at houses of worship and their surrounding neighborhoods, over 1.6 million gallons of rain water will be prevented from entering the combined sewer system each year!
With the moral conviction that basement flooding is an environmental justice issue, and that we have a responsibility to maintain a clean and abundant water supply for our neighbors downstream, taking action becomes even more compelling and hopeful.
Will you join us in this vision? If you are interested in learning more about water preservation at your house of worship, please contact Ramont Bell.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post to learn how Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Chicago recently hosted a rain barrel painting that brought people together around art and water preservation.