New Brunswick

It's small, but permeable pavement project could be big difference-maker: eco-group

EOS Eco-Energy is "depaving'" a parking space in Sackville to show how small steps, like applying permeable asphalt, can make a difference in flood mitigation and improving water quality.

Permeable pavement helps mitigate flooding in a Sackville parking lot

Kelli-Nicole Croucher, watershed coordinator with EOS Eco- energy hopes the permeable asphalt allows water to seep through next time it rains. This is a spot where water often pools. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

It's only one parking space, but Kelli-Nicole Croucher hopes the difference is noticeable next time it rains.

A sustainable energy group dug up a parking spot near the Sackville post office and is replacing the standard asphalt with permeable pavement. Instead of pooling on top of the asphalt, the water should seep through the permeable pavement, which will filter out some plastics and contaminants, and into the earth.

"We're hoping that this permeable asphalt will allow the water to infiltrate down into soil and then the ground water," said Croucher, watershed co-ordinator with EOS Eco-Energy Inc.

The Sackville-based non-profit organization works within the Memramcook and Tantramar communities to reduce and adapt to climate change.

The group has a program focusing on rain water and the different choices people can make that impact flooding and water systems. The permeable pavement is meant as a pilot project to see how well it works.

"We'll monitor it over the year to see how it fairs, especially here with our winters, with our freezing and thawing, and then if we see that it's working, well we can look at doing larger scale projects," Croucher said.

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The group hopes the "depaving" project will show how small steps, like applying permeable asphalt, can make a difference in flood mitigation and improving water quality.

Jamie Weatherbee, operations manager with Dexter Construction of Moncton, is overseeing the paving process.

"All asphalt has some air voids in them, this will have up to 20 per cent air voids which will allow water to flow through it," said Weatherbee.

A crew from Dexter construction lays permeable pavement in this Sackville parking lot. Installation took about half an hour. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

He said it's a product more widely used in the southern United States.

"It's harder in our climate to use it due to the fact that we have a lot of sand and salt which tend to plug the surface," Weatherbee said, "so what you have to do with a product like this is you have to keep it clean with a street sweeper or a vacuum of some sort just so the water will continue to go."

Weatherbee said it's also more expensive — the asphalt alone for the Sackville parking spot is estimated to cost $5,000.

"It's not … a product we have on the shelf, so to speak, every day, and there is a lot more prep work involved," he said. "But if you want to look at it from an environmental perspective, its fantastic for the aquifer."

Jamie Weatherbee, operations manager with Dexter Construction said permeable pavement is more expensive but it's better for water systems. (CBC)

And the paving process is not complicated. Weatherbee said, "The guys are going to dump it in the hole, they're just going to rake it out, just basically give it a roll to flatten out the surface and then let it cool, and it's ready to park on."

Croucher said EOS Eco-Energy received grants from EcoAction through Environment and Climate Change Canada, Green Communities Canada, the Freshwater Alliance, and Our Living Waters. The Town of Sackville contributed the parking space and prep work, and the town said it will help monitor the parking spot over the next year.

The group has funding for another de-paving project next year but hasn't decided where it will be.