GM’s New York Plant Ready to Tackle the Next Storm

Jan 13, 2014 2:50 PM ET


Many people who traveled past our Tonawanda, New York plant this past summer were wondering what, exactly, was taking shape on the front lawn.

A swimming pool? A fish pond?

None of the above: It’s a bio-retention area!

Put simply, this new area will channel rain to prevent it from running off into surrounding parking lots and eventually into the Niagara River bordering the plant.

It’s especially important in the winter when road salt and other possible contaminants are prevalent on the roads and parking lots. By installing this bio-retention area, Tonawanda helps enhance the quality of the river, which falls in line with GM’s overall commitment to resource preservation.

Being able to handle whatever weather may be thrown at us involved pulling data from the last 100 years to determine what our heaviest rainfall could potentially be and then designing the space accordingly.

So what goes into this engineering marvel? Consecutive layers of gravel, geotextile fabrics, peat moss and soil. Water-loving native plants and shrubs that are resistant to salt will populate the area. And, contrary to what you may think, this area will remain dry most of the time.

By 2020, we are committed to secure wildlife habitat certification at each of our manufacturing sites, where feasible. And this includes native tree plantingspollinator gardens, or, in the case of Tonawanda, storm water runoff areas.

“The retention area is nice for the plant because it requires minimal upkeep,” said Tom Mayer, facilities area manager at Tonawanda. “But the key factor in turning unused space into an environmentally beneficial installation is that it will help to ensure runoff doesn’t make its way to the banks of the Niagara.”