Vale Street Biofilter Planting

Planting around the Vale Street Biofilters Article by Amy StLawrence, Jenny Hill and Karen Hising

In late May, we had another successful planting morning event around the biofilters (otherwise known as “raingardens”) at Vale Street, South Katoomba – our second event in two years. We planted between 850 – 900 plants in three hours, with 17 volunteers, two contractors and two Council staff – a fantastic effort!

Our planting work around the biofilters will reduce ongoing need for brushcutting/mowing, reduce weed infestation, increase habitat for local wildlife, prevent soil erosion on sloping ground into the biofilters and improve the local aesthetics.

Planting on the slope to prevent soil erosion. All Photo Credits – Blue Mountains City Council

The Vale Street biofilters were built within the footprint of the old constructed wetlands at the site to improve the pollutant removal capacity of the system. These works were completed as part of the Leura Falls Creek Catchment Improvement Project, a joint Council, Water NSW and community initiative that built seven stormwater treatment systems throughout the catchment area, as well as rehabilitating eroded creek lines.

Planting shrubs into the bank of the Vale Street Biofilter.

The Vale Street system includes a gross pollutant trap to remove rubbish, coarse sediment and organic matter and three biofilters to remove dissolved pollutants, such as nutrients and pathogens. The biofilters consist of layers of gravel and sand, planted with native sedges and shrubs. Water quality monitoring has shown them to be very good at improving the quality of stormwater before it flows into Leura Falls Creek, with significant reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, suspended solids, faecal coliforms and rubbish. The design of the system and creekline restoration works have also greatly reduced downstream flooding and created pools and ponds for local wildlife.

Planting sedges into the wet area.

The water in the Leura Falls Creek Catchment travels through industrial, residential and natural areas to Leura Cascades and eventually arrives in the Sydney basin to be stored for drinking water.

There has been a significant amount of work undertaken in this catchment, including weed control, planting, monitoring, local community environmental education and information. The Leura Falls and Gordon Creek Catchment Group (a group of volunteers from Bushcare Groups and local residents in the catchment working together with Council) has been very active in much of the overall improvement works.

We will be conducting another planting morning at Vale Street in mid – 2020, including some easy and challenging options in continuing to plant around the biofilters, as well as along the creekbanks and up through an unformed road reserve, which adjoins the Vale Street Bushcare site.

We can all do our bit to improve water quality for our local waterways by preventing/collecting rubbish in the streets, vegetating bare soil areas, picking up dog faeces whilst walking, washing cars on lawn areas and covering stockpiles of soil/mulch. We can also capture stormwater run-off by installing water tanks on our properties for toilet flushing, laundry and garden use or allowing it to soak into the ground gradually with vegetated areas and raingardens, rather than large areas of hard surfaces, such as concrete.