Valpo Engineering Treats Stormwater With Rain Garden, StormTree System

StormTree2Offering new opportunities for undergraduate research, Professor and Interim Chair of Civil Engineering Peter T. Weiss, Ph.D., works with students on recently installed rain gardens and a StormTreeTM system to improve the quality of stormwater runoff. Dissolved phosphorus from engine oil, lawn fertilizer, and other sources found in urban stormwater runoff can increase vegetation in lakes, rivers, and streams, altering the oxygen levels and damaging the ecosystem. Typical stormwater treatment technologies, however, do little to remove dissolved phosphorus from stormwater. These two projects seek to improve phosphorus removal through the addition of enhancing agents that bind and retain dissolved phosphorus.

The StormTree System treats runoff flows from roadways, filtering the water through a proprietary mix that removes contaminants but typically has relatively low phosphorus removal. Students will analyze the effects of the enhancing agent on this system to determine how much phosphorus can be removed through this method.

Similarly, the rain gardens project attempts to increase phosphorus removal from stormwater. Rain gardens have been shown to increase phosphorus levels in stormwater due to decomposition of plant material, mulch, and compost. Students and faculty will test a new design that incorporates enhancing agents that attempt to improve performance and reduce phosphorus, resulting in less contaminated runoff.