Water runoff from highways carries pollutants which can cause serious damage to the local environment. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) formulated a plan in 2003 that would use different best managing practices (BMP) to counteract the effects of runoff. However, this plan did not involve bioretention, a BMP that uses plant fibers and engineered soil to absorb pollutants and requires minimum maintenance. Bioretention is a proven method in the removal of pollutants, but bioretention tests have only been performed in the northern states or in Australia, where the climate and soil types are different than those found in Texas. Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) researchers performed a bioretention study to develop a plan for use in TxDOT districts, running tests on the effectiveness of bioretention both in a laboratory and in a real-world scenario. Along with testing different soil and plant types, researchers looked at how internal water storage (IWS) affects bioretention. Including IWS in the bioretention plan can provide a constant source of water during hot Texas summers and decrease the stress plant roots undergo during droughts. After the tests, researchers recommended increasing the drainage area to increase pollutant removal. Read the Featured Project Page…
Expanded SEC Lab Open for Business
The expanded Sediment Erosion Control (SEC) Laboratory officially opened its sprayers on September 4 marking the completion of a year-long construction project that more than doubles the capabilities of the research facility. The grand opening was celebrated with a two-day event that also featured a sediment and erosion control workshop.
During her remarks, Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Environment and Planning Program Manager Jolanda Prozzi noted key benefits that the expanded SEC Lab offers. “The main benefit is that there will be no more long waiting lists to get products tested,” said Prozzi. “In some cases, we had sponsors waiting up to two years for testing. This expansion will allow us to be more responsive, and also give us the capacity to do research. Previously our facility was tied up with product testing, but with the expansion we may dedicate test beds to research.” The expansion includes a new rainfall simulator building that houses three 8-feet by 40-feet variable slope soil fill test beds that accommodate any slope up to 2:1 (50 percent). Adjacent to the new rainfall simulator building is a 1,500-foot covered sediment bed preparation area. This area creates a dry work space for storage of the new larger test beds during inclement weather. The expansion also includes a 40-foot by 60-foot soil storage building that allows for test bed preparation during rain events without affecting antecedent soil moisture, a critical factor in the indoor testing procedure. Read more…
Sediment Erosion Control Lab Expansion Nears Completion
The first thing a visitor to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s new Sediment Erosion Control (SEC) Laboratory notices is “this place is really big!” And indeed with over 3,600 square feet of expanded research capabilities featuring the ability to conduct ASTM testing, the SEC Lab is poised to become the go-to place for sediment and erosion research not only in Texas, but America. The building is mostly complete with only the testing equipment left to install. Read More
Keeping Tabs on the Elements: TTI’s Environmental Research Focuses on Water, Air Standards
Seeing a smoking vehicle traveling down the highway makes us think about the air we’re breathing. When rainfall causes the road to be slick from tire residue and engine spills, we don’t often think of what happens when the pollutants wash off the road. But what the roadside does with the polluted water and how well we monitor and curtail air pollution coming from vehicle emissions are two areas very important to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulators, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“The roadside is more than just something pretty to look at. It’s a mini-ecosystem with environmental functions that provide storm water treatment and habitat that can be maximized through proper design and maintenance activities,” says Beverly Storey, associate research scientist.