The Issue Governments around the world face the difficult task of managing and treating contaminants in stormwater runoff to protect local waterways. Stormwater running across fields, streets, parking lots and other areas pick up contaminants that need to be treated or filtered in some way to ensure local waterways stay clean to protect the environment, human health and protect the safety of drinking water supplies. In many cases, municipalities and management organizations have been using sand filters to remove contaminants from runoff, though there are some drawbacks to this approach. Sand itself isn’t very reactive and a sand filter is typically developed with a one size fits all approach. The sand filters assume all situations are the same. They may remove some contaminants, but in many cases they are unable to remove certain types and they also expire very quickly. The USA EPA has stated their reservations about their overall effectiveness because of their limited capacity to treat nutrients and metals.
STAR (Stormwater Treatment and Reuse) Water Group technology prevents contaminants from entering waterways around the world by using materials science, engineering, horticulture, computer science and biochemical knowledge to configure filter components to best target and remove contaminants from the water. The brainchild of inventors and Starwater directors, Christopher Rochfort and Eric Love the company has developed more advanced reactive filter media formulations that are developed to best treat the specific problems in any given area. By optimizing filter designs through extensive research and development, the technology can provide more efficient pollutant removal and a longer lasting filter. Sand filters traditionally last 2-5 years while STAR Water filters last 5-20 years.
STAR Water custom designs the filters based on local performance needs including pollutant removal, hydraulic control and plant growth using locally available raw materials. The materials are sorted by their characteristics using computer analytics and are manufactured into site specific bespoke proprietary design technology developed by the company. The computer system, known as Kalkulus, allows STAR Water to achieve global performance consistency and handle multiple inquiries around the world at any given moment to develop site-specific designs, whereas the traditional solution is the installation of one-size-fits-all 1971 technology sand filters.
The STAR Water filters contain recycled mineral and organic materials, and they are customized to best treat the specific contaminants in a given water source. They use a range of engineered materials from recycled glass sand to recycled organic materials and carbon. Laboratory analysis of these materials are used to determine their characteristics and identify their performance capabilities.
Some organic and mineral materials are derived from yard waste collection systems and resource recovery centers. The materials are graded and go through a rigorous characterization process to determine what materials are suitable to treat specific contaminants. A material testing and accreditation system includes the ability to rule out materials that might not be suitable and to identify suitable materials that are locally available in a given jurisdiction.
With the help of WaterStart, STAR Water brought in the Desert Research Institute to conduct research into locally available recycled, natural and renewable materials that can be engineered into advanced biofilters to protect significant local waterways from contaminants. “Nevada has some of the nation’s most iconic water assets like Lake Mead and Lake Tahoe” states Nate Allen CEO of WaterStart.
WaterStart funded the pilot project by providing $75,000 to bring in experts from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) to test the use of various recycled and organic materials in STAR Water’s advanced biofiltration technology. The testing was supervised by Eric Love, who is also lead researcher at the Centre for Organic Research and Education. Dr. Alan Heyvaert is the Laboratory Testing Lead at DRI and says the pilot was intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of different materials and then use the results to implement pilot scale demonstrations. Heyvaert says, “Other filtration products use various materials in filtration beds but often they don’t know in advance how effective the removal will be for target contaminants in a particular setting. STAR has demonstrated that they take a much more deliberate and quantifiable approach in their projections of contaminant removal effectiveness and retention capacity.”
Results of the Pilot
STAR Water has been working with various universities and research centers around the world for the past 20 years to conduct research and further develop filtration solutions, so they have been evolving and developing the technology for decades. “It’s like what the engineers at NASA did during the aborted Apollo 13 mission. We look at what materials are available to work with on planet Earth to solve a filtering problem,” says STAR Water CEO, Chris Rochfort. According to Rochfort, the work with the DRI was, “probably the most extensive rigorous and detailed research they have done anywhere around the world and is based on our patented methods and systems.”
STAR Water received extremely valuable information as a result of their work with DRI. This information has helped the company identify sustainable materials available in the Southwest that can effectively remove contaminants of concern from water in the region and beyond. Specifically, they have achieved some very good results on problematic materials such as selenium. Selenium is a metal that comes out of geological formations which accumulates in the waterways to a level where it needs to be removed. California has a problem with selenium along with Nevada. “This is an example of where we can use the results we are getting from the DRI studies to provide solutions for other states like California,” said Rochfort. The majority of the other results are kept confidential for the time being, but they are good news for Nevada’s environmental initiatives.
Typically, each material delivers different performance results. , The DRI results showed that some materials were better performing than others for each pollutant type. Some were not favorable and the results on some others were very favorable. For the materials with not such favorable results, sometimes they still have a role to play in a different way. For example, some materials might not treat as well as others, but they might manage the water in a different way such as flow control. This is important information because in many areas around the world the filtration technology must also manage things like nuisance flooding. By identifying materials that have better water holding capabilities, these filters can also act like a sponge to hold excess water and reduce flood risk in regions where that might be a concern.
Some of the DRI’s best scientists worked on material characterization and other performance parameters. The resulting data was entered into STAR Water’s Kalkulus computer design system. The filters are then manufactured much the same as manufactured soils and used in a range of applications such as rain gardens, bioswales, permeable structures and filter beds that remove the contaminants from inflowing waters. The removal capability is increased through computer optimization that automatically selects the ratios of components while also addressing flow rates and residence time to maximize treatment.
The work DRI carried out for STAR Water will not only be applicable in Nevada, but also in surrounding areas like Arizona, Utah and California. Because of the success, STAR Water is moving forward with DRI on a new contract, independent of WaterStart, to conduct additional testing. STAR Water is sending water samples from wrecking yards in California and Las Vegas to be tested by DRI. The goal is to identify treatment materials that can be used in new filtration systems to effectively and efficiently remove contaminants in these specific operations to enable compliance with state and federal regulations. DRI is currently the only lab in the US conducting this type of analysis.
About STAR Water
STAR Water Group protects waterways around the world using proprietary filter technology made using recycled, renewable and natural materials. The company’s technology combines materials science, computer analytics, engineering and soil science to produce “Bio-Filters” that better target pollution problems at high removal rates over long periods. STAR Water seeks out and analyzes local recycled raw materials in all the locations they work in around the world.
The technology is highly efficient and can remove pollutants such as micro plastics, heavy metals, nutrients, petroleum hydrocarbons and other toxins that can cause cancer, as well as help reduce flash flooding incidents. STAR Water’s patented and patent pending technology has gained international awards and has been used around Sydney Harbor, Marina Bay Singapore, Yangtze Delta in China and the Pacific Ocean in California for instance. The company’s clients include State and Local governments, construction companies, building contractors, industrial sites and farms.
STAR Water received valuable insight into the performance of various materials in treating specific contaminants in Nevada and the Southwest. The research will contribute to more efficient and effective stormwater treatment filters in the region.