Camden, NJ—The Camden SMART [Stormwater Management and Resource Training] Initiative is offering City of Camden residents a chance to not only help reduce flooding in the city, but also to save money on their water bill.

The initiative will be holding free rain barrel workshops on Thursday, May 31 and Wednesday, June 20.

The one-hour long workshops will educate residents about the Camden SMART Initiative’s new Rain Barrel Program, and offer them the opportunity to have a rain barrel installed at their home for free.

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“The idea with the rain barrel is if you catch water in your barrel—instead of the water going into the sewer pipe—you’re reducing the impact of that contaminated water, [reducing] the polluting of the waterways and helping to reduce flooding by keeping the water in your barrel instead of putting into the pipe and placing that burden on the pipe,” said Zach Poplin, Rain Check Program manager for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society [PHS].

The PHS has partnered with the Camden SMART Initiative to run the Rain Barrel Program.

According to Poplin, Camden is served by what is called a combined system, which means that there is a single pipe system underground that is conveying both wastewater and stormwater.

“When it rains, the pipes will either overflow, or backup, which causes pollution of the waterways and also flooding throughout the city,” said Poplin.

Poplin also said that the rain barrels reduce the homeowners water bill as well.

“Residents are charged per gallon of sewage as well, so by diverting the water into a barrel instead of your sewage pipe, you’re actually save a little bit of money that way as well by reducing the sewage charge on your water bill,” said Poplin.

The barrels are 55 gallons, and about three feet tall by two feet wide. They get connected to the home’s downspout to collect the storm water runoff from the homes roof. They are recycled barrels that food grade, which means that they weren’t used for any toxic chemicals or substances.

According to Poplin, the program started last Summer and since its launch, over 100 barrels have been installed at residents’ homes throughout the city.

Poplin said that at the meetings, attendees will learn everything from the basics of stormwater management, to why there is a need for the Rain Barrel Program, to the maintenance of the rain barrel, which he says needs to be emptied in between rain storms.

“There is no way you can treat this problem with rain barrels alone. It’s one thing that residents can do to do their part,” said Poplin.

The information session on Thursday, May 31 will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the St. Joseph Carpenter Society, 20 Church St. The session on Wednesday, June 20 will be held at 6 p.m. at the Parkside Methodist Church, 1418 Kaighn Ave.

Each attendee will be able to sign up for a free, professional installation of a rain barrel at their home.

The Camden Smart Initiative was founded in 2011 by a coalition of six entities—Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, the City of Camden, Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program, New Jersey Tree Foundation and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Funding for the Rain Barrel Program was provided by the William Penn Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.