MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) – This week, a crew is digging a huge hole in front of Moss Point Upper Elementary School. Soon, a garden filled with aquatic plants and trees will grow there. The greenery will play a big role in helping protect the Pascagoula River from water pollution.
"We're basically creating a mini wetland. So we're going to be using native wetland plants," said Mozart Dedeaux, the Education Coordinator for the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.
Last year, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center won an online Disney competition called Friends for Change. The center submitted the rainwater garden project in the contest and children across the country voted for the best ideas. The center was one of three winners in the "water" category. It is now using the $80,000 prize money to create rainwater gardens at every campus in the Moss Point School District.
"One of the reasons that we got the grant is because we're on the Pascagoula, the last free flowing river in the lower 48 states. So anything we can do to keep the Pascagoula watershed clean is fantastic," said Dedeaux.
The gifted students at the school helped design the garden.
"We measured the distance from the roof to the garden, that would be a good design for catching more water," said sixth grader Shadera Moore.
Storm water runoff contributes to about 90 percent of water pollution. Moss Point Upper Elementary alone collects millions of gallons of water during a two-inch rainstorm. Instead of going into the ditches, canals, and waterways, some of that water will be diverted into the garden.
"The water is violently flowing across these surfaces and picking up pollutants and garbage, and that eventually goes into the watershed," said Dedeaux. "So rainwater gardens are ways to capture those chemical pollutants and the native plants actually absorb those materials before they go into the river."
"We're digging the trench so we could get the water that falls into the parking lot into the garden. It could be purified as well," said sixth grader Kenzie Wells.
"It's great! It's going to be fun and help the environment. We can't wait to see how it looks," said sixth grader Jacob Germany.
The gifted students will serve as ambassadors, teaching other students and the public about the rainwater project. The gardens should be finished by the end of November.