WEF's membership newsletter covers current Federation activities, Member Association news, and items of concern to the water quality field. WEF Highlights is your source for the most up-to-the-minute WEF news and member information. 

October 2010, Vol. 47, No. 8

Top Story

Plant Proves All-Star Stormwater Best Management Practices — Award After Award
Green roof and vegetative features reduce runoff by 70% at one Connecticut water purification facility


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The South Central green roof as it begins to grow. Photo courtesy of Bioengineering Group. Click for larger image.
Over the years, the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority’s Water Purification Facility and Park (South Central) serving New Haven, Conn., acquired an impressive list of awards recognizing its sustainable design, most recently receiving an American Society of Landscape Architects (Washington, D.C.) 2010 General Design Honor Award. The facility also received the 2007 American Institute of Architects (Washington, D.C.) Top Ten Green Award, 2007 Sustainable Land Development Visionary Project Award, and architecture awards in 2005 from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and 2001 from the Van Alen Institute (New York).

The green crown jewel of South Central is a 2600-m2 (28,000-ft2) “green” roof — the first at a water purification facility and the largest in Connecticut — will last more than 50 years and is constructed of plants to reduce runoff and reduce the heat-island effect. In 1999 when the project kicked off, there were only two other green roofs in the country. “It went from a ‘not in my backyard project’ to a ‘please in my backyard project,’” said Wendi Goldsmith, chief executive officer of the Bioengineering Group (Salem, Mass.), a company that helped design South Central. 

The authority commissioned the construction of South Central to deliver the necessary amount of safe drinking water to citizens in the Mill River Watershed, an area heavily affected by sprawl, with stormwater flow ultimately leading to sensitive Long Island Sound. Since its installation, ecologically engineered techniques at the facility have reduced site runoff volume by more than 70%, according to Goldsmith.

Community Approval Required
CH2M Hill (Englewood, Colo.), Steven Holl Architects (Kansas City, Mo.), and Michael van Valkenburg and Associates (Brooklyn, N.Y.), along with Bioengineering Group, designed South Central, completing construction in 2005. South Central ultimately became an example of sustainable design and low-impact development from the onset of the project, when the team was required to generate community support for the project.

The site selected for the state-of-the-art facility was the location of a 20th century sand filtration plant neighboring a residential zone. “Using this site was only possible because the architectural design worked for the abutters,” Goldsmith said. The nearby neighborhood was given the right to choose the design team, and residents agreed to incorporate a green roof at the facility.

The facility’s energy-efficient, gravity-fed design, based on the site’s natural slope, eliminates pumping and includes a geothermal energy system. The facility incorporated recycled construction materials and reused excavated earth and land-clearing debris.

Aesthetically, the facility and park, visible from a nearby residential cliff-top park, appear natural in the landscape.

Green Roof Makes its Mark
During the design phase of the project, an independent third-party engineering group challenged the green roof’s inclusion in the project because of its cost. Bioengineering Group helped run the numbers on the project and found that vegetative features, along with the gravity-fed design, would save approximately $35 million in capital and operations expenses over other project designs, Goldsmith said.

Incorporating stormwater management features was a requirement to ensure that the new 57,000-m3/d (15-mgd) facility complied with local ordinances, including Phase 2 Stormwater Regulations implemented during the project and Sec. 438 of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which states that projects must maintain or restore predevelopment hydrology.

The facility also includes vegetated swales that will last more than 10 years and a stormwater treatment pond with a design life of more than 50 years. Together, the site’s vegetative features address water quality criteria, reduce building and energy costs, and lengthen the building’s useful life. 
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Above, surface runoff drains to an unlined pond where it percolates through the soil, removing particulate matter. The pond also collects overflow from the facility’s finished drinking water tank. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella. Left, green roof as it begins to take hold. Photo courtesy of Bioengineering Group. Click for larger images.

Alpine Neighbor and Pollutant Eliminator
South Central’s landscape, which includes its roof, hilltop, swale, and pond, is lush with native grasses, flowering plants, succulents, and wetland plantings that provide habitat for songbirds, waterfowl, butterflies, small mammals, amphibians, fish, and insects, according to Goldsmith.

The roof, patterned after a “shallow soil mountaintop alpine community,” is composed of a waterproofing membrane, drainage material, a geocomposite mat, a growing medium, and herbaceous plants. Maintenance includes two inspections per year, weeding to remove woody plant species, fertilization, and minor in-fill planting, Goldsmith said.

Excess precipitation leaving the roof and the existing foundation drain, set around the perimeter of the site, enters the swales and wetland treatment system. The green roof also shields the facility from ultraviolet infiltration, extending the life of the roof base layer, and increases the insulation, thereby reducing heat-island effect.

Bioengineering Group tripled the size of the existing wetland, connected swales and meadows, and discouraged the growth of invasive phragmites by stabilizing the water-edge terrain. The perennial treatment pond was designed to maintain a minimum 0.9 m (3 ft) of water for fish habitat and is replenished with surface water while it replenishes groundwater.

The swale removes more than 93% of metals, 94% of total suspended solids, 99% of total phosphorus, and up to 61% of nitrogen and organics. The wetland removes up to 75% of bacteria, 85% of metals, and 80% of total suspended solids with pretreatment.
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Description of vegetative elements at South Central. Dormant, live cuttings of woody plant species were used as stakes that sprout in the spring to stabilize a steep slope along a stream or pond edge for enough time for plant roots to establish. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Felicella. Click for larger image. 
Cost Savings Beat Value Engineering Threat
The real value of the project, Goldsmith said, is that “it’s healing the watershed and teaching others how to restore a watershed, rather than having a degenerative effect.”

Now a reality, South Central’s vegetative features have made “a measurable difference” in the watershed, Goldsmith said. Having net zero discharge, measured by Yale University (New Haven, Conn.) research using New England precipitation and water budget data, 50% of stormwater leaves South Central through transpiration and evaporation while 45% of annual precipitation infiltrates groundwater and deep and shallow waters, leaving the remaining 5% as runoff.

“The footprint is working to do all that it can do now,” Goldsmith said, explaining that prior to development, the site looked green but was full of non-native grasses and a positive pitch. Surface was added, Goldsmith noted, but the project has greatly reduced stormwater runoff from the site.


Andrea Fox, WEF Highlights
Soccer Field Set To Filter Rainwater in Africa
Filtration system provides water and other community benefits


PITCH - Net Small Citizens of South Africa soon could be thanking a soccer field for their water. Atopia Research Inc. (Princeton, N.J.) designed PITCH: AFRICA, an innovative rainwater harvesting and filtration system built into a soccer playing surface, also known as a football pitch.

In 2008, the Annenberg Foundation (Los Angeles) began supporting research and development of the system. This summer, the foundation announced plans to work with the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (Los Angeles) and identify a location in South Africa to build the first system by the end of next summer, said Liza deVilla Ameen, Annenberg Foundation communications officer. The foundation built and unveiled a life-size model of the system in July at the Port of Los Angeles to illustrate the system and garner support for the project, Ameen said.
Children play soccer on the PITCH:AFRICA model that captures and stores rainwater. Photo courtesy of the Annenberg Foundation (Los Angeles). Click for larger image.

Scaling the System Depending on Community Needs
Atopia began working on PITCH: AFRICA in 2005 and has designed six scales of the rainwater harvesting system, with the primary system focusing on Africa’s street soccer tradition. The two smaller systems include a single cistern with a 30,000-L capacity and a two-cistern system with a 60,000-L capacity, according to Atopia’s September 2008 “PITCH_AFRICA” report. The third system incorporates varying numbers of the two-cistern system, depending on the local resources and water needs, said Jane Harrison, co-founder of Atopia. 

The three larger systems include a street soccer tournament venue, a five-aside or beach soccer venue, and an international-scale soccer venue, each with a 1 million-L capacity. As rainwater falls onto the larger venues, it passes through the semipermeable layer on the soccer field constructed of perforated polyester tile and is stored in cisterns located under the field. The area under the seating area, which is constructed of an impermeable layer, can be used as a sheltered community gathering area for anything from a school to a meeting place to a local market, Harrison said. Water that falls on the seating area is directed to the playing surface, where it drains into the cisterns, she added.

In each system, water goes through initial filtration when it enters the cisterns. Then, the water can be drawn off without further filtration for irrigation or put through further filtration to create potable water for drinking, cooking, and washing. “Water intended for potable use is filtered using a clay water-filtration system that runs continuously,” Harrison said. “The tanks are interconnected and act as a single cellular tank, so that the water level remains constant across the system.”

The community surrounding each system can decide to fully allocate water for agricultural use, fully allocate water for potable use, or choose a combination of the two uses. Atopia intends the first three systems installed to be street soccer venues housing schools and allocating potable water to students and their immediate families, Harrison said.

Making the ‘Rain Fall Forever’
Many parts of Africa experience rainfall amounting to between 1.2 m (4 ft) and 1.8 m (6 ft) a year, but because of the large concentration of rain in brief time periods, much is lost to evaporation. Currently, women and children walk long distances, up to 40 km a day, to get water that often is contaminated. The long journeys keep girls out of school and take women away from caring for their families or earning an income, the report says.

In areas receiving 1.5 m (5 ft) of rain annually, one PITCH can capture as much as 1.8 million L, which is enough water to meet the daily drinking water needs of 1000 people for a year, according to the Annenberg Web site. The system is intended for use in areas with more than 0.8 m (2.5 ft) of rainfall a year and includes a conservatively sized harvesting area to ensure that the system can work when rainfall is below average, Harrison said. “The object of harvesting is to ‘make the rain fall forever,’” she said.

Using Local Interest and Resources in Creative Ways
Atopia designed PITCH: AFRICA to take advantage of local interest in soccer and utilize resources found throughout Africa, according to Atopia’s report.

Citizens in poorer communities play street soccer on a small court because full-sized soccer fields are unavailable. By incorporating a water harvesting system with this venue, Atopia hopes to combine a variety of community resources, including a soccer arena, water resources, and community gathering areas, the report says.

In addition, because the poverty-stricken region of Sub-Saharan Africa receives aid from various nonprofit and government organizations, abandoned shipping containers that once held food and supplies are in abundance. These containers can be converted into cisterns to minimize installation cost, the report says. In other areas where shipping containers are not available or cost-effective, other local materials can be used to design and construct a system, with its size based on the community’s needs and available resources, the Annenberg Web site says. 
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Above, rendering of the PITCH model. Left, soccer team plays on the PITCH model in Los Angeles. Photos courtesy of the Annenberg Foundation. Click for larger images.

Weighing the Costs and Benefits
PITCH: AFRICA could represent a sustainable, reliable, and cost-effective alternative or complementary method to current water practices, such as borehole drilling for water wells and rainwater harvesting, according to an Annenberg Foundation news release.

Atopia currently is conducting a detailed cost analysis of the system but estimates that the street soccer venue will cost $250,000 to $300,000. However, Atopia expects to reduce the cost substantially by using local resources, Harrison said. Initially, the systems will be funded by the nonprofit organizations involved. Harrison hopes the first systems will help educate African communities about the importance of rainwater harvesting and water filtration.

“We believe that this kind of decentralized infrastructure is essential to people’s survival and health in these regions,” Harrison said. “It has been developed to foster local enterprise and utilize local resources and skills.”


Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
2010 SJWP Recognizes Novel Research
Students Compete Internationally for Prestigious Water Prize


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Danny Luong and Alexandre Allard receive the SJWP 2010 award from Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden (center). Photo courtesy of Exray Foto, SIWI. Click for larger image.
Each September, Stockholm, Sweden, draws the brightest young researchers, who are taking on some of the toughest water challenges, from around the world to participate in the Stockholm Junior Water Prize (SJWP) competition.

Students from more than 30 countries participated in this year’s international SJWP competition, the world’s most prestigious youth award for water-related science, held during World Water Week. Every year, World Water Week addresses a theme to encourage examination of a specific water-related topic; this year’s theme was “the water quality challenge.”

Competition participants certainly stepped up to the water quality challenge during the weeklong cultural and educational experience. The 2010 SJWP winning team, Alexandre Allard and Danny Luong from Canada, presented their research, “Novel Biodegradation of Polystyrene,” at the competition.

“The winning project created a novel approach to break-down [Polystyrene] plastics using micro-organisms and enzymes that are cost effective, and readily available,” the international jury said in its citation. “This method could greatly reduce the amount of plastics that end up in the world’s waters.” The team received a $5000 scholarship and a blue crystal sculpture in the shape of a water droplet, presented by SJWP’s patron, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.

In addition, during the competition, a Diploma of Excellence was given to Yingxin Li, Zhaonan Yang, and Wanling Chen from China for their project, “Novel Soil Remediation Technology for South China.” The team developed a report that addressed several water-quality-related issues in the agricultural sector, including fertilizer loss, recycling of waste, and improvement of soil fertility.

To make it to this level, each high school student first received the top prize in his or her home country’s competition. Once in Stockholm, the students shared their research with prominent water scientists and researchers from across the world, international dignitaries, and the media.

“It was so eye-opening to be part of this whole thing,” said Rebecca Ye, the 2010 U.S. SJWP winner from Maine. “The most exciting thing is being able to be together with some people who are just as passionate about this research as I am.”

Representing the United States, Ye conducted research in a lab at the University of Maine (Orono) under the supervision of Vivian Wu, associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Ye’s research focused on finding a more efficient method of testing water samples for bacteria, such as Escherichia coli. Through an array of tests, she created a method that combined microbiology and nanotechnology to create a biosensor capable of rapid identification of strains of E. coli.

Ye’s affordable approach takes less than 24 hours to detect small concentrations of E. coli in water. Now, it is a matter of making the system practical for broad-spectrum use, she said.

“As water quality regulation increasingly becomes a fundamental public concern, research like Rebecca’s will be invaluable to secure the safety of our water,” said Angela Buonocore, senior vice president and chief communications officer at ITT Corp. (White Plains, N.Y.).

In the years to come, many competition participants will continue their research, and with their new connections to like-minded colleagues, they will have opportunities to work collectively toward innovative solutions. As a first step, the international winners and two of the U.S. finalists will attend WEFTEC® 2010 to display their research and discuss the results with nearly 20,000 water professionals.  


Alexandra Amiri, WEF Highlights
Barry Liner Joins WEF as Water Science and Engineering Center Director

Barry LinerThe Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) welcomes Barry Liner as director of the new Water Science and Engineering Center. The center, part of WEF’s Technical and Educational Programs group, will work to ensure comprehensive coverage of technical issues and prompt development of cohesive programs in emerging areas, such as energy, climate change, and stormwater.

As director, Liner will lead the center’s technical and outreach activities, manage the center’s staff, and work on building WEF’s technical programs and coverage of technical topics. Liner focused on sustainability topics, water and energy conservation, utility benchmarking, and infrastructure finance and modeling throughout his career.

Liner earned his doctorate in water resources sustainability and holds a master’s degree in environmental systems engineering and a bachelor’s degree in economics. A licensed professional engineer with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate credentials, he has worked as a senior program manager and management consultant for several organizations, including consulting engineering firms and the World Bank (Washington, D.C.). He most recently worked as a professor of sustainability and environmental engineering at George Mason University (Fairfax, Va.).

A WEF member since 1995, Liner has presented a number of times at WEFTEC® on topics that include sustainability and utility management, receiving a best poster presentation acknowledgement at WEFTEC.97. A member of the American Water Works Association (Denver), Liner’s participation in the field extends to leading various research projects and educational workshops and programs. He also continues to be involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB; Boulder). In August, he spent 2 weeks in Compone, Peru, as part of an EWB team evaluating the irrigation network and water supply structures for the Andean town of 1000.

“I am excited to be a part of WEF’s new initiative in the creation of the center,” Liner said. “I look forward to the challenge of working with the staff and WEF volunteers in the development of new strategic initiatives while maintaining the Federation’s commitment to our core technical capabilities.”

Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights
CWEA Vice President Becomes NASSCO Executive Director


 CWEA-Ted Deboda
Photo courtesy of Ted DeBoda.
The National Association of Sewer Service Companies (NASSCO; Owings Mills, Md.) board of directors selected Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) member Ted DeBoda as the organization’s executive director. DeBoda, a WEF member since 1991 and current vice president of the Chesapeake Water Environment Association (CWEA; Sparks, Md.), began his term as NASSCO executive director in August.

DeBoda’s 20 years of leadership experience includes his most recent experience as manager of the Baltimore office of URS Corp. (San Francisco), senior project manager for URS, officer in the U.S. Army National Guard, and 15 years with the New Castle County (Del.) Department of Public Works and Special Services in both the engineering and operations divisions.

DeBoda succeeds Irvin Gemora, who plans to retire in February. Gemora spent 9 years as NASSCO executive director and plans to help DeBoda make the transition into the position. As a past chair and founding member of CWEA’s Collection System Committee, DeBoda plans to stay involved in leadership positions and industry events through WEF and CWEA in his new position, according to a NASSCO news release.

“This is the next step for me to personally promote trenchless technologies on a national level, reconnect with people I’ve known through the years, meet new industry experts, and work to help us all come together to move our industry forward,” DeBoda said in the release.


Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights