OH college seeks to become model stormwater campus using new technology

The College of Wooster committed to research a plan for what is needed to convert its grounds to a zero stormwater discharge campus.

WOOSTER, OH, Dec. 3, 2012 -- The College of Wooster committed to a project Friday to research a plan for what is needed to convert its grounds to a zero stormwater discharge campus. The plan would involve a contract with a local water treatment company ABSMaterials, Inc. to construct stormwater gardens containing the company’s patented swelling glass, Osorb®, to both capture and treat contaminants common in stormwater.

“Stormwater treatment has become an essential component in urban areas to manage stormwater runoff,” said Dr. Hanbae Yang, ABSMaterials Environmental Engineer. “Decentralized approaches to stormwater management, including green infrastructure strategies like stormwater gardens, are gaining great interest because they cost-effectively reduce volume of runoff to sewer systems and protect surface water from pollution.”

ABSMaterials, Inc. built two stormwater gardens on Wooster’s campus as part of a National Science Foundation control study in 2011 to determine Osorb’s effectiveness in removing contaminants from inflowing stormwater.

According to data collected from the two gardens, both systems reduce stormwater volume by 99 percent, but only the garden with Osorb blended into the soil also removes 90 to 100 percent of pollutants such as oil, grease, pesticides, solvents and nutrients. Without Osorb, these contaminants may have discharged to groundwater or surface water in the Killbuck watershed, reducing water quality.

Dr. Yang has determined that the Osorb garden has been “two to nine times more effective at improving water quality than any other stormwater system documented,” which led to Wooster’s decision to explore implementation of the stormwater gardens across campus as part of its zero-discharge strategy.

“The College of Wooster could become a living lab for how impacted urban stormwaters worldwide can be made into high quality water. This is a massive global need,” said Stephen Spoonamore, ABSMaterials CEO. “ABSMaterials and the College have a great relationship. We have been developing projects together for four years. Five of our full-time staff are College of Wooster Graduates, and CSO Dr. Paul Edmiston is also the Chair of the College’s Chemistry Department.”
“We have a strong commitment to becoming a more sustainable campus,” said Grant H. Cornwell, Wooster’s president, “and this idea holds great potential to help us further that goal.”

Wooster would be the first school to become a model stormwater campus by integrating the nano-engineered glass into green stormwater systems. This follows other recent examples of Wooster’s commitment to sustainable stewardship, such as the 20,000 square foot solar roof installed at the school’s new athletic facility last year.

“According to WHO and UNICEF report in 2010, 783 million people are still using unimproved water resources (approximately one in nine people). There is a significant growing global need and demand to create systems capable of managing, harvesting and cleaning stormwater to very high water quality standards,” Yang said.

“By significantly improving stormwater management and quality, creating a model for cost-effective stormwater treatment with no discharge can have local, national and global impacts on water quality improvement and re-use.”

Spoonamore agreed, adding, “ABS is working on stormwater solutions in many places today, but to work on advancing the design and performance and to set a global leadership example right here in Wooster is going to be amazing.”

As part of the research for the plan, ABSMaterials will complete a survey of the campus with Wooster’s grounds department in the near future to determine which locations are ideal for stormwater capture.

About the College of Wooster

The College of Wooster is America’s premier college for mentored undergraduate research. By working one-on-one with a faculty adviser to create an original research project, written work, performance or art exhibit, every Wooster student develops independent judgment, analytical ability, creativity, project-management and time-management skills, and strong written and oral communication skills. Founded in 1866, the college enrolls approximately 2,000 students.

About ABSMaterials, Inc.

ABSMaterials, Inc. is dedicated to applying advances in 21st century materials science to the challenges created by 20th century industrial processes and chemistry. The company’s advanced water treatment systems use patented Osorb® absorbent glass materials to remediate oils, solvents and other VOCs in water without negative environmental effects.


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