Boeing and The Nature Conservancy Face Stormwater Challenges Head On

CleanTech Innovation Showcase Presenting Company Recap: Boeing

By Dana Sulas

CleanTech Alliance Contributor

Jessie Israel from the Nature Conservancy discussed the increasing challenges of stormwater runoff along with recent developments in technology aiming to filter toxins out of runoff before it reaches our waterways at the 2017 CleanTech Innovation Showcase. The Nature Conservancy’s collaboration with Jennifer McIntyre of Washington State University has shown that coho salmon are affected by stormwater runoff, with a significant impact on salmon lifetimes in the Puget Sound. Interestingly, natural filters consisting of sand and compost have proven to be effective in filtering stormwater runoff, where 100% of salmon survived in the filtered highway runoff despite 0% of salmon surviving in unfiltered runoff.  Jessie showed examples of how this type of natural filter system can be applied in city settings as green infrastructure, potentially offsetting some of the human impact on fish lifetimes and water purity.

With a goal of data-driven innovation in stormwater treatment, the Nature Conservancy is working alongside several companies to build a better understanding of the major city pollutants and where those pollutants are concentrated. Their work with GeoSyntec and Vulcan creates “heat maps” of materials that could wash into the water ways, where different materials include phosphorous, nitrogen, copper, and suspended solids. With the help of research at the University of Washington, they find that pollutants are primarily deposited on roads, and traffic data can be used as a proxy for pollutant loading. In addition, resources from Microsoft and ESRI help to create a geospatial toolkit for accelerated conservation outcomes by introducing cloud computing and more substantial data processing power.

Lori Blaire from the Boeing Company joined Jessie to discuss their partnership in creating porous pavement that can filter stormwater. The porous pavement is a composite material reinforced with carbon fiber. The material is undergoing research and development to reach an optimized permeability to water while still maintaining the necessary strength to withstand heavy vehicle traffic. Their initial tests have shown that the porous pavement materials are nontoxic and act as effective filters.

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