Scarborough Beach, R.I., finds new tool to fight health-threatening bacteria in stormwater runoff

Test results show the AbTech Industries Smart Sponge Plus filtration material's high level of effectiveness in destroying harmful microorganisms in dry and wet weather runoff scenarios...

SCOTTSDALE, AZ, May 13, 2005 -- Field tests just released reveal the effectiveness of the Smart Sponge® Plus -- an innovative technology used to stop bacteria and pollutants from emptying into the waterways of Rhode Island's Scarborough State Park Beach. In both dry and wet weather sampling, the maximum removal rates for fecal coliform ranged from 89.4 to 99.6%. In the same sampling process for Enterococcus, the maximum removal rates ranged from 96.2 to 99.9%.

This stormwater management improvement project, using the Smart Sponge Plus, aims to combat one of Scarborough Beach's greatest enemies -- stormwater runoff. Bacteria, oil, grease, and sediment all threaten the waterways, with bacteria posing the greatest danger to health. Last year, this popular saltwater beach attracted 585,000 people and was forced to close six times due to high bacterial levels.

The project has been a collective effort of the Rhode Island Departments of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Management (DEM), and Health (DOH), which have been working in coordination with Governor Don Carcieri's office to help eliminate health-threatening levels of bacteria from entering community bathing waters.

"The core of the solution involves diverting the flow of runoff from Scarborough's five stormwater outfalls through a filtering system," said Cindy Baumann, Director of Engineering for Crossman Engineering, who consulted on the project. Baumann helped design a system of 100-foot pipes running parallel to existing pipes that exit into the bay. "The new drainage piping was filled with a patented antimicrobial material called the Smart Sponge Plus developed by AbTech Industries. The Smart Sponge Plus is designed to remove contaminants, destroy bacteria, and improve the water quality before it discharges into the bathing waters," she said.

Glenn Rink, AbTech's president and CEO, said that the Smart Sponge Plus antimicrobial filter material had not previously been used in this type of application, but that it had proven effective for removing and reducing bacteria concentrations in stormwater runoff with the Ultra Urban Filter® Catch Basin Insert.

Rink said, "The technology for AbTech's Smart Sponge and Smart Sponge Plus ["Plus" means the antimicrobial agent is present] was initially used for cleaning up oil spills, but it's now being used more and more frequently in stormwater catch basins alongside streets."

The Smart Sponge Plus is a sponge-like material resembling popcorn, and it not only removes pollutants from the water but also destroys bacteria. Rodolfo Manzone, Ph.D., AbTech's executive vice president and chief technology officer, said that Smart Sponge Plus employs an antimicrobial agent, chemically bound to the Smart Sponge polymer filtration material, which deactivates health-threatening microorganisms without releasing chemicals or leaching.

Manzone said, "Unlike other antimicrobials that act by poisoning harmful microorganisms, Smart Sponge Plus technology is based on the antimicrobial agent's interaction with the microorganism's cell membrane. Simply put, it acts by rupturing cell membranes-preventing potentially harmful microorganisms from functioning, developing, or reproducing. Because no chemical or physical change occurs in the antimicrobial agent, the filtration system maintains long-term effectiveness."

Its success is not only based on its effectiveness at removing hydrocarbons, bacteria, and other pollutants but also on its ability to encapsulate and transform hydrocarbon pollutants into a stable solid for easy recycling. It provides a closed-loop solution to water pollution and allows for less expensive and less problematic handling and waste disposal. The Smart Sponge Plus is fully recyclable, and it is the only non-toxic filtration system on the market that has proven to destroy bacteria at the street level.

The project plan included testing water samples to determine the filter material's effectiveness for reducing and removing bacteria within stormwater runoff in both dry and wet weather. There were 165 samples taken in dry weather and 44 samples taken during three different storm events.

Based on these field test results, the bacteria-removal efficiency of the Smart Sponge Plus is consistent with other regions' field testing. In both dry and wet weather sampling, the maximum removal rates for fecal coliform ranged from 89.4 to 99.6%. In the sampling process for Enterococcus, the maximum removal rates ranged from 96.2 to 99.9%.

AbTech Industries ( or, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is dedicated to developing innovative clean water solutions to meet community and industrial needs. It produces Best Management Practice (BMP) equipment for nonpoint source pollution and storm water control, filters for storm drains and catch basins, and devices that skim and capture oil from still or flowing water. AbTech's products are based on its proprietary polymer-based filtration material that's fully recyclable and provides a complete, closed-loop solution for removing pollutants from water. The company holds the patent on the Smart Sponge Plus, which is the only non-toxic, fully recyclable filtration system that destroys bacteria at the street level. AbTech filtration systems are currently filtering contaminates from urban and stormwater runoff in 27 states. The Environmental Protection Agency has included AbTech's Ultra-Urban Filter series with Smart Sponge technology as a BMP under the federal guidelines that local governments must follow.

In related news, see: "RJN Group performs flow monitoring services for Narragansett Bay".


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