November 2013, Vol. 25, No.11


App makes flood data available anywhere

Take personalized and local flood-risk data “on the go” with the FloodMap™ mobile app. The app, developed by Atkins (Epsom, England) to help communicate flood risk and help members of the public take action to mitigate effects, provides information based on the user’s location. It offers an individual risk report that can be shared through e-mail, according to an Atkins news release.   

The app provides flood-plain managers, engineers, emergency responders, city planners, and community officials with quick access to information in the field about map numbers, quads, gages, and flood plains. (It also is a useful tool for real-estate professionals and prospective home buyers because it provides estimated flood-insurance costs based on home value for specific properties, the news release says.) The app can be downloaded free from app stores. 



Songbird provides early warning system for polluted waterways  

Historically, birds have served as an early warning system for toxic conditions. And now, bird eggs could offer early detection for contaminated waterways, according to a Cardiff University (Wales) news release.  

University researchers examined Dipper eggs along urban rivers in South Wales to find that they contained pollutants at levels, on average, more than four times greater than in adjacent rural rivers. These levels are among the highest ever found in songbirds, the news release says.  

Dippers are thrush-size songbirds that feed directly on river insects. Chemical analysis of pollutant residues in the bird eggs proved that they are good indicators of river health, the news release says. 

Some of the pollutants tested for, such as total PCBs and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are from past industrial activity, as well as flame retardants in building and industrial and domestic products. The pollutants can persist in the environment for long periods and are believed to contribute to hormonal irregularities and abnormal development in fish, the news release says. The study shows that substances can find their way into water and accumulate in river wildlife. 

While previous studies have shown Dippers to be pollutant indicators, this study is the first comparing rural and urban rivers, explained study lead Christy Morrissey of the Cardiff University School of Biosciences, in the news release. A report on the study, funded by the Leverhulme Trust (London) and Natural Environment Research Council ( Swindon, England ), was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. 




Sponge Park planned to soak up stormwater in New York 

A park specifically designed to capture and retain stormwater will be built soon next to the Gowanus Canal in New York. 

Construction of the 167-m2 (1800-ft2) Sponge Park™ will include excavation of a roadway to 1.2 m (4 ft) deep and installation of a modular system of concrete cells filled with engineered soil to store and filter stormwater runoff. Native plants in the park will absorb, filter, and transpire water through roots and leaves while phytoremediating toxins from runoff, according to a New York City Department of Environmental Protection news release. A 3-m-wide (10-ft-wide) walkway above an overflow sand-filter area will provide public access to the canal, the news release says. 

The park was developed to provide public access to the canal and increase green space in the local community while reducing runoff and improving water quality through green infrastructure, the news release says. 

The approximately $1.5 million park was developed through the efforts of dlandstudio (New York) and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy (New York). The project to build the park will go out to bid this year, with construction beginning in 2014. 




Frequencies produce liquid drops of different shapes

Drops of liquid behave differently at different frequencies. Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) researchers have produced a photo album of more than 30 shapes that an oscillated drop of water can take. This research provides insight into how droplets behave, which could have applications in anything from microfluidics to inkjet printing, according to a university news release.  

For the study, which was reported in Physical Review E, researchers used a high-speed, high-resolution camera to capture images of the oscillating droplets and used an imaging platform called Omniview to look at them from different angles. For the Omniview, droplets sit on top of a glass slide, and a 50-µm-square metal mesh acts like a window screen underneath. A light is shined through mesh holes, and deflection of the drops’ surface refracts light, which triggers the camera to capture a photo, the news release says. 

The researchers mechanically oscillated the drops at various frequencies and found that certain frequencies correspond to the shape of a drop of a specific size. They created a detailed table of droplet shapes according to frequency and compared results to previous theoretical predictions. They observed that some droplets take on multiple shapes when vibrated with a single driving frequency, the news release says.