Category Archives: New Technologies

Get all “Breaking Bad” with Vegetables- Hydroponics, Aquaponics, and Aeroponics make it happen

Hydroponic's Grow Up in London
Aquaponics Grow Up in London
Indoor Hydroponics
Indoor Aeroponics

Time to get all “Breaking Bad” with vegetables- feel like a bad a**, without the threat of jail time or murder, right in your own home!  Yes, even you, Mr. Condo-owner, living in a big city, can secretly grow your own stash of affordable organic vegetables!

The need and wish for sustainable agriculture in cities is increasing due to the environmental and monetary benefits of having local food sources.  The benefits of growing vegetables in cities include air quality enhancement, positive psychological benefits, fresher food, low transportation costs!

A group in London recognized these benefits and began growing up right in the middle of the busy city! Rooftop vertical gardens put the city in a sustainable mind set with cool looking gardens.  The “GrowUp” team constructed their aquaponics GrowUp Box from a reused shipping container that was modified to include a rooftop greenhouse. What are aquaponics, you ask?  Well stated in the article, this means “The greenhouse will produce vegetables that will get all the necessary nutrients from waste water from fish tanks situated bellow. The nutrients are meant to fertilize the plants and in turn the plants purify the water.” With a footprint of only 14 square meters, the GrowUp Box can produce around 60kg of fish and 200kg of salad each year!

A US based research group out of MIT uses aeroponics, a technique developed by NASA in the 90s to grow vegetables on space crafts, which uses 70-90% less water, and allows plants to grow significantly faster.  This process leaves the roots of crops hang in the air below the plants, and in the case of this MIT lab, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers are grown on the 5th floor of a University building.  The roots are misted every five minutes with water containing controlled concentrations of nutrients, such as phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium, as well as micro-nutrients, copper and magnesium. A seed is placed in a thermoset plastic cube and is allowed to germinate in dark closet space, mimicking underground conditions, then the seedling is moved to the 5th floor space where natural light and LED lights supply the plant with the energy it needs to grow.  Apparently this process claims to double the nutrient content of conventional practices because the fruits and vegetables do not need to be picked before they are ripe, therefore, less spoilage and waste in addition to nutritional benefits. This process also avoids devastation by weather and pests by growing indoors.  Sounds to me like Epcot at Disney World has had the right idea since the 90s!

Meanwhile another London based company began a hydroponics project called “Growing Underground”, and has taken over an underground, abandoned World War II bomb shelter, big enough to fit 8,000 people!  They use LED lights and a hydroponic technique, where a bench full of seeds is flooded periodically, to grow a 2.5 hectare farm!  Proponents boast about constant temperatures, constant light, predictable and constant weather, and no pests.  They grow pea shoots, rocket (whatever that is), red lion mustard, radish, tatsoi, pak choi, and broccoli.

It’s amazing what we can do when we think outside the box!  I live in a condo, and have always wanted a garden.  I have a porch to I may try the vertical garden first…I’ll let you know how that goes!

Underground Tunnel Hydroponics
Underground Tunnel Hydroponics

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Sooooo Ionized water- life saver or ridiculous marketing scheme?

Ionized, aka alkaline, water systems seem to be a new health trend. Businesses want them for their reception rooms to show how they care about their clients’ health, or that they have the money to spend on messing with the composition of water. But is your money going where it is intended? Are there true health benefits?  Just using common sense, an individual who knows very little science would think “I know we eat and drink substances of varying pH on a daily basis, our stomachs are very acidic, therefore, a basic solution would be neutralized when mixed with stomach acid upon consumption.”  But perhaps that is more to it?

First, lets look at the science and an explanation of water and pH: Water, in its purest form, consists solely of H2O molecules.  These molecules are slightly polar, and have a tendency to dissociate (aka ionize) into H+ and OH- ions, however the reaction of these ions forming a water molecule is much more rapid.  Therefore, maintaining the ionization of pure water is impossible.  The neutrality of pure water is supported by the fact that pure water will not conduct an electrical current, however, salt water, which has an alkaline pH of 7.5-8.4, will… and we know the dehydrating affects drinking salt water can have on the human body. With an understanding of water, we can see that no machine can take pure water and change the pH. Other ions must be introduced to produce acidic or alkaline water.  All aqueous (liquid) solutions contain a ration of H+ and OH- ions, which give a solution a certain pH.  When the balance is weighted toward H+ ions, the solution is acidic; when weighted toward OH- ions, the solution is basic, or alkaline.  Pure water has a pH of 7, drinking water (tap or bottled) has a pH of 6.5-8, rainwater has a pH of 4-7, depending on where you live.  For the pH to change one unit, in either direction, the ration of H+ to OH- is either 100:1 (drop one unit in pH, making the solution more acidic) or 1:100 (an increase in pH, making the solution more basic).  Whether water is slightly acidic or alkaline, it will always contain the same number of positive and negative charges.  That being said, since alkaline water contains an excess of  negative OH- ions, it must be balanced by positive ions to stabilize and equalize the opposite charges.  Therefore when excess OH- ions are present, commonly  metal ions, such as sodium, calcium, or magnesium, are added to water to allow a stable pH change.  In other words, as the pH strays from 7, so does the purity of the water.

Now, let’s look at the ionization process: Ionizers use a process called “electrolysis”, which refers to the breaking of chemical bonds, due to electric current.  The thought process is that breaking bonds will leave OH- ions unpaired, in suspension between the H+ ions that are consumed by a negative electrode, and the positive electrode, creating an alkaline solution.  If the solution is solely water, these H+ and OH- ions will bond back to original state quickly, resulting in a pH of 7, just as prior to electrolysis.  Bottom line, if your water is at drinking water standards, from the tap or bottle, no electrical device or chemical additive is capable of creating alkalinity.  Therefore, if your goal is to consume alkaline water, and your device does not add ions, you are literally wasting money and energy.  Due to the fact that pH adjustment in water cannot be maintained, some devices depend on the addition of salt to increase water’s conductivity, using NaOH, which allows chlorine ions that are present in water to bond with OH- ions, creating hypochlorous acid, which is a weak acid and oxidizing agent.  Some systems allow this to be separated and used as a disinfecting agent, but many times, this hypochlorous acid is encouraged to mix with sodium hypochlorite, which is equivalent to diluted laundry bleach.  In other words, you can make this water yourself by adding bleach to your drinking water!  Just adjust the pH with lemon juice, and you are good to go!  Getting thirsty yet?

Why so many claims of health benefits from alkaline water?  Although it has been proven by numerous research studies (including those performed at Michigan State and Ohio State) that highly alkaline water has extreme adverse effects on plants and animals, very few studies have been performed on humans.  The lack of experimentation on humans has, unfortunately, allowed for claims of positive effects, not based on scientific fact; and although our medications come with warnings that are based on animal experimentation, somehow, alkaline water is exempt from stating these findings.  People genuinely believe that drinking alkaline water makes them feel better, and there are many claims of health benefits.  So let’s again look at the scientific reasons behind these claims.  The hypochlorite ions that are present in ionized water (which is charged with external salts) may end up in the digestive tract and the large intestine, where the presence of these ions can react with, and kill, bacterial organisms (whose job is to remove harmful substances), which may make certain individuals feel better initially.  However, the presence of hypochlorite ions is known to trigger a number of cellular processes connected with cancer, by suppressing genes that normally act to inhibit cell proliferation and tumor growth.  This negates the positive impacts you initially feel, and also contradicts claims of preventing cancer.  From the research reports I have read, tumors, which are naturally acidic, do not respond positively to basic surroundings, however they do respond to extreme acidic environments.  For example, vitamin C has been proven to kill cancer cells.  Surprising? I know.  One would think that if something is acidic, it can be neutralized with a base.  There has not been a single unbiased, scientific research report that provides conclusive evidence of an alkaline environment, within the human body, being beneficial.  However, it is evident that a neutral pH is necessary for biologic processes to carry out normally.

Another reason people may feel better from drinking alkaline water is simply because they are finally drinking water; or at least drinking more than they were, prior to their “life-saving” water system.  Drinking water can improve your health and well-being significantly, providing cells with the tools they need for metabolic processes and waste removal…plus it helps the appearance of your skin by “plumping” flaccid cells.  The third reason that ionized water may make someone feel better is as simple as believing… the placebo effect is no joke, people!

Conclusion: If you are still a proponent of an alkaline diet, drink some runoff water that is naturally alkaline from minerals in soil, rather than water that is induced with salts and electric current.  There may be some animal excrement that has not been biodegraded yet, but it is still probably healthier in the long run than ionized water.  Tap water is slightly alkaline, but at healthy levels.  Drinking plenty of this should make you feel and look great.  If you don’t like the taste, or if you are worried about pipe contamination, get a Brita filter or a filter for your faucet, that uses a membrane  or activated carbon filtration system to remove trihalomethanes, which are responsible for poor taste and odor.  The first red flag that went up for me was the claims of unheathy drinking water in the US, and claims that pharmaceuticals exist in both bottled and tap water, which even if true, this “ionization” process would not be able to rid water of this issue either, in addition, the vague explanations to the health claims seemed a little sketchy.  Then finally, the disclaimer stating that none of the claims are backed by real scientific research.  Many of these ionization machines are manufactured in Japan or Korea, countries knows for their susceptibility to  pseudoscientific water-treatment schemes.  In the US, these devices are sold by dealers who know very little to nothing about science.  They will tell you their machines perform miracles, however, no matter which ionization system you buy, either these machines are doing absolutely nothing, or they have the potential for harm  in the long run.  Even pro-alkaline professionals say that this water should only be ingested for a maximum of two weeks. The facts from a chemist:

  • “Ionized water” is nothing more than sales fiction; the term is meaningless to chemists.
  • Pure water (that is, water containing no dissolved ions) is too unconductive to undergo signficant electrolysis by “water ionizer” devices.
  • Pure water can never be alkaline or acidic, nor can it be made so by electrolysis. Alkaline water must contain metallic ions of some kind — most commonly, sodium, calcium or magnesium.
  • The idea that one must consume alkaline water to neutralize the effects of acidic foods is ridiculous; we get rid of excess acid by exhaling carbon dioxide.
  • If you do drink alkaline water, its alkalinity is quickly removed by the highly acidic gastric fluid in the stomach.
  • Uptake of water occurs mainly in the intestine, not in the stomach. But when stomach contents enter the intestine, they are neutralized and made alkaline by the pancreatic secretions — so all the water you drink eventually becomes alkaline anyway.
  • The claims about the health benefits of drinking alkaline water are not supported by credible scientific evidence.
  • “Ionized”/alkaline water is falsely claimed to be an anti-oxidant. It is actually an oxidizing agent, as can be seen by its ability to decolorize iodine (see video)
  • There is nothing wrong with drinking slightly acidic waters such as rainwater. “Body pH” is a meaningless concept; different parts of the body (and even of individual cells) can have widely different pH values. The pH of drinking water has zero effect on that of the blood or of the body’s cells.
  • If you really want to de-acidify your stomach (at the possible cost of interfering with protein digestion), why spend hundreds of dollars for an electrolysis device when you can take calcium-magnesium pills, Alka-Seltzer or Milk of Magnesia?
  • Electrolysis devices are generally worthless for treating water for health enhancement, removal of common impurities, disinfection, and scale control. Claims that “ionized” waters are antioxidants are untrue; hypochlorites (present in most such waters) are in fact oxidizing agents.
  • Claims that “water ionizers are approved for use in Japanese hospitals” are misleading: these “approvals” merely attest to the machines’ safety — that they will not electrocute you! My understanding is that the Japanese Health Ministry is highly critical of therapeutic claims made for alkaline water.
  • Artificially alkaline water only neutralizes acidity where it has direct contact, like the stomach and upper bowel. When consumed daily, the upper bowel in particular becomes overly alkaline and side effects begin to appear. Most common are erratic heart behavior, hypertension, nervousness/anxiety, urinary tract and bladder infections, and stabbing side pains.
  • We have spoken to numerous individuals who were hospitalized for heart conditions that magically disappeared when they stopped drinking artificially alkaline or ionized water. Why would anyone ingest anything unnatural when natural alternatives are available at a comparable cost?
  • More severe side effects were observed in a clinical study involving rats. The study revealed injury to cardiac tissue (heart muscle) as a result of drinking ERW (Electrolyzed Reduced Water), or water created by ionizer machines (artificially alkaline water). In an age when heart disease is a leading killer, ionized water is simply not a smart choice.

 

The Coolest Part About the World Cup… (because we all know what the hottest part is)

There are certain sports that I only watch during certain tournaments, unless my favorite teams are playing.  Soccer is one of them, and the tournament being the World Cup…and it only comes once every 4 years.  The first tournament I watched was 2006, of course I was a hard core Italy fan and obnoxiously dressed like a Christmas tree in June.  Although I have always been proud of my Italian heritage, and always will be, after that tournament, there became the exception of that pride being throughout the World Cup.  Sorry, but when I played sports, I played hard until the whistle, I didn’t throw myself into the ground asking for one.  Anyway, I’ve never seen so much passion in any sporting event than I do with world soccer.  It’s absolutely amazing, people watch to become part of that passion, to come together as a nation to root for people we’ve never heard of, and suddenly they become the most important celebrities that exist; we even talk about how we are going to start a soccer team (which never happens), and all our future children will be soccer players.  We hear about teams, players, eliminations, and even details about weather and the city where the tournament is taking place, but we’ve heard very little about the actual buildings.

The venues for the 2014 World Cup, like the 2012 Olympic stadiums in London, were designed to be sustainable buildings!  They recycle and reuse waste, they use solar power, they are carbon neutral for gosh sakes… they even have monorail transportation to limit pollution from cars traveling to the games!  As you will see below in the stadium descriptions below by FIFA, these stadiums are smaller than American Football stadiums, you can imagine the impact of retrofitting those stadiums to meet the standards of the Brazilian soccer complex!  Let’s step it up NFL!!!

Now let’s watch the US take on Portugal…because the whole world will be rooting for that hot guy, so we need all of the positive energy we can get!!  USA USA!!!

 

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Given that the stadium in Cuiaba set to host matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ neighbours the flora- and fauna-rich region that is the Pantanal, it is no surprise that sustainability has been a central theme of the construction and maintenance of the new arena from the project’s very beginning.

This sustainable approach has been applied to every detail along the way, with the wood used in the construction coming from certified sources and the waste and rubbish produced being recycled – thus enabling them to be reused within the building project and its access routes. The site’s air and soil quality is also constantly monitored, all of which means the stadium’s nickname of ‘O Verdão’ (The Big Green) is particularly appropriate.

Specially built for Brazil 2014 – when it will host four matches – the Arena Pantanal will boast a capacity of 41,112 and will occupy the site where the Estadio Jose Fragelli used to be. This multi-purpose stadium will have an adaptable structure, which can be reduced in size once Brazil 2014 is over. The covered arena is thus an ideal setting to host a variety of events such as shows, exhibitions and trade fairs, while local clubs such as Mixto and Operario may also take advantage of the new venue.

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Few Brazilian cities can match the capital Brasilia when it comes to architecture, and the imposing Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha is a reflection of that, an arena with seating for 69,349 spectators, making it the second largest of the stadiums hosting matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

The city’s Estadio Nacional has been all but demolished to make way for the stadium, which boasts a new facade, metal roof and stands, as well as a lowered pitch enabling unobstructed views from every seat.

Founded on carbon neutrality, recycling and complete access via public transport, this environmentally friendly construction project consolidates Brasilia’s status as a world leader in sustainable urban planning, creating a valuable legacy for other sectors of the local economy.

The Estadio Nacional will host the Opening Match at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 and seven games at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, one of them a quarter-final tie.

The stadium will be Brasilia’s third, along with the Serejao, the home of Brasiliense, and the Bezerrao, which was recently refurbished and reopened in 2008. Following the world finals the arena will be used to host concerts and major cultural events.

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Though not a traditional hotbed of Brazilian football, Manaus is sure to be popular with fans attending the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ thanks to the unique character of the Arena Amazonia, formerly the Estadio Vivaldao.

The city is situated at the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the largest tropical rainforest in the world and the inspiration for the refurbished stadium, which will be enclosed by a metal structure designed to resemble a straw basket, a product the region is famous for.

This sustainable stadium project will provide an important legacy for the region and play its part in helping to preserve the diversity of the Amazonian rainforest. For example, rainwater will be collected for its subsequent use in toilets or to water the pitch, while the region’s abundant supply of sunshine will be harnessed to generate clean and renewable energy. Plant screens will also be created to keep energy costs down and, above all, to control temperatures inside the stadiums.

As well as seating for 40,549 spectators, the Arena Amazonia will feature restaurants and underground parking and will be served by dedicated bus and monorail services. The venue for four group-phase matches at Brazil 2014, the stadium will continue to attract tourists after the tournament by hosting concerts and cultural events.”

Technology and the Environment (DirectTVScholarship)

This entry is much different from those I’ve written in the past. I have focused on maintaining or restoring the natural environment, the way it was prior to civil development. This is to maintain the balance of the earth, the circle of life, and to sustain water quality. What I haven’t mentioned is how advancements in technology can help us do this. There are many technology based tools I use to find the best possible ways to preserve nature while providing a life for the growing human population. As it turns out, tree hugging and talking to bugs can only get you so far.

I had a choice of a dissertation topic, a “perk” choosing a professor with no funding (he saw my vision and that was priceless), and from my experience in the field of land development/sustainable design and engineering, I knew that only through technology, can nature can be preserved. It sounds crazy, I know, but would you believe that a computer can actually turn into a prophetic environmental crystal ball? My research involves the use of three different hydrologic models. These aren’t your run of the mill excel platforms, these are Geographic Information System (GIS) based hydrological and hydraulic models that allow me to actually see into the future! This technologically advanced system can allow me to see what the effect of a new development will be on the ecosystem, on the water quality and quantity, where to put pervious pavement to be most effective, how big a bio-retention area should be, what size a pipe or a weir will work, and actually design a system to work with the existing land to have minimal impact on the natural environment. Through this I can see how fish, birds, plants, water, air, and humans will populate and live simultaneously in the same place. Pretty amazing, huh? I can actually create a natural environment through the use of technology. Am I saying it couldn’t be done without technology? No, it probably could, but the amount of equations and iterations of those equations the computer runs in an hour, would take a human years, longer than the amount of time the project has to be built, it would be subject to human error, and wouldn’t present the results in a visually descriptive and accurate way. No company or municipality would spend that kind of money on labor just to save the lives of a few fish, thus, technology gives us the power to do plan and grow with the environment instead of against it.

I didn’t stop there with the use of technology. I truly believe to the depths of my soul that the fate of the environment lies in education. Most people simply do not know the environmental repercussions of their actions, and in addition, they don’t know a healthier, better way. In a study I conducted, 82% of people in areas without combined sewer systems either didn’t know where stormwater went after it entered into a manhole, or believed that it went to a wastewater treatment facility. All of those people were pretty surprised when I told them that the trash they throw out the window or the chemicals they put on their lawn, wind up being the lake or river habitat. My point is, that the more information people have, the more likely they will be to make better choices, to always recycle, to use less packaging, to use all natural cleaning products and use less fertilizer and water. People take action when there family, money, or they themselves will be adversely affected… so there would be a lot more people taking action if they knew the harmful impacts irresponsible environmental practices have on all three. This is where technology comes in. The best way to inform a large amount of people is through the internet, therefore, I made this website and connected it to a new twitter page, and my existing facebook page. Again, I am using technology to sustain the natural environment, as strange as that still sounds as I say it out loud.

I have no doubt that I will continue to use technology in my future career plans, especially if I accomplish my dream of making environmental documentaries based on my work. I can only hope that the advances in environmental engineering made through technology, will supersede the environmental impact of the increased energy use. Hopefully, the promotion of energy wise products will make an impact in that area.

Now the question is, are we too dependent on technology… I don’t have a good answer to that question. When I see young kids glued to the TV or game console instead of being outside, learning and playing, I think “whoa, this has got to stop or we’re going to have a future population of incarcerated Grand Theft Auto pros”. On the other hand, I see a large population not as dependent on technology, some don’t even know how to use a computer, and I think “wow, there needs to be more technology incorporated in grade school”. I think with everything, moderation is the key. Use technology as a tool for learning and growing, not as a crutch or dependency where you cannot function without it. See the world around you, and let technology make that world better!

Developers…Low Impact Development is your best friend

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I’ve been saying this for 10 years now: Low impact development techniques benefit all.  Developers cringe at the sound of anything “tree-hugger” sounding.  They immediately think “unnecessary, and expensive.”  You will not see many developers, or many people for that matter, going above and beyond to minimize their impact on the ecosystem when there is no immediate benefit to them or their company.  Low impact development (LID) are design strategies that increase aesthetics, increase water and air quality, provide storage to prevent from flooding, reduce peak flows, and reduce erosion (many of these are explained at inspectorplanet.com).  LID can be a profitable development strategy by providing treatment and attenuation are spread throughout a development, ultimately requiring less space for detention ponds, and allowing for more responsible development within regulations, therefore, more units to be sold.  Not that I would ever encourage that, of course the moral approach would be to exceed environmental expectations, but unfortunately, we live in a world where the right thing to do, isn’t always the choice of those monetarily motivated. 

In addition to the economic benefits that LID provides structurally, a study has been conducted concluding that people are willing to pay more for proximity to green space and LID…up to 1.95% more!  So not only are the lives of the plants, animals, aquatic life, and human life minimally adversely impacted by new urbanization, the developer, builder, realtor, and contractors benefits economically as well! 

See the story here:
http://blog.epa.gov/science/2014/04/willingness-to-pay-for-green-space/

Buffalo to treat stormwater with Low Impact Development!!!

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Buffalo, NY is one of the few places with combined sewer systems.  Overflow of these systems causes the combined storm and waste water into Niagara Falls.  Implementing LID to treat and attenuate stormwater can reduce this overflow of polluted water into the Falls.

From EPA:

EPA Approves Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Plan to

Reduce Sewage and Water Pollution in Niagara River

Close to Two Billion Gallons of Sewage Overflows Enter Niagara River and its Tributaries Every Year

 

 

(New York, N.Y. – April 14, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have approved the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s plan to reduce the amount of sewage and stormwater run-off that flow from the city of Buffalo’s combined sewer system. Combined sewer systems, which carry sewage from buildings and stormwater from the streets, are overwhelmed during heavy rain and send untreated sewage into local waters. The plan has been incorporated into a legal order issued by the EPA to the Buffalo Sewer Authority. Under the approved plan, the Buffalo Sewer Authority will implement a series of projects that will improve water quality in the Niagara River and its tributaries, including projects that use green infrastructure to soak up and store stormwater that would otherwise increase overflows of raw sewage into local waterways. The Buffalo Sewer Authority has committed to investing $380 million on these projects over 20 years.

 

“The Buffalo Sewer Authority has shown its commitment to come into compliance with the Clean Water Act and improve people’s health and water quality throughout the city,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The incorporation of green infrastructure into the plan will help restore the Niagara River, while building healthier, greener and more sustainable communities.”

 

“EPA, DEC and BSA have worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive Long Term Control Plan to significantly improve water quality and reduce combined sewer overflows to the water bodies in the Buffalo and Niagara River watersheds,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “This plan is an important step in achieving cleaner, healthier and more vibrant waters in the City of Buffalo, while providing future opportunities for recreational activities for local residents and visitors. DEC applauds BSA for incorporating green infrastructure into the plan to protect the fresh water resources of the Lake Erie water basin and assist in beautifying an urban landscape.”

 

During periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt, the volume of wastewater in a combined sewer system can exceed the capacity of the plant that receives the wastewater for treatment. When this happens, combined sewer systems discharge excess wastewater containing untreated sewage directly into nearby water bodies. These overflows not only contain stormwater and untreated human and industrial waste, but also toxic pollutants and debris. It is estimated that Buffalo’s combined sewer system contributes over 1.75 billion gallons of combined sewage overflow to the Niagara River and its tributaries each year.

 

Green infrastructure is an environmentally friendly technique to manage storm water. It uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier, more resilient urban environments. This type of infrastructure can replace more traditional concrete, or “gray,” solutions. Green infrastructure, which includes green roofs, permeable pavement and other surfaces, rain gardens and restored wetlands, mimics nature by soaking up and storing water.

 

Under a permit issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Buffalo Sewer Authority discharges from its Bird Island wastewater treatment plant outfalls and from combined sewer overflow points into the Niagara River, Black Rock Canal, Erie Basin, Buffalo River, Scajaquada Creek, Cazenovia Creek and Cornelius Creek. The Buffalo Sewer Authority’s 1999 permit required it to develop a Long Term Control Plan, to manage its combined sewage. The Buffalo Sewer Authority submitted a Long Term Control Plan in 2004, which was found to be inadequate and not approved.

 

A March 9, 2012 compliance order issued by the EPA required the Buffalo Sewer Authority to submit an approvable Long Term Control Plan to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that would include sewer system improvements to ensure that combined sewer overflows complied with technology and water quality-based requirements. The legal order also required the Buffalo Sewer Authority to develop a detailed implementation schedule that would take finances into consideration while meeting water quality standards. Both the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation encouraged the Buffalo Sewer Authority to incorporate green infrastructure projects into its plan.

On January 10, 2014, the Buffalo Sewer Authority submitted its final revised Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan to the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for review and approval. The plan was approved on March 18, 2014. The EPA is now issuing an amended compliance order memorializing the EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s approvals of the Buffalo Sewer Authority’s Long Term Control Plan and implementation schedule with a 2034 final compliance deadline. The Buffalo Sewer Authority has already invested over $50 million in completed and ongoing construction projects under its approved Long Term Control Plan, including:

A $2.8 million pilot project to determine green infrastructure effectiveness related to rain garden/infiltration basins, pervious pavement and house downspout disconnections

$1.2 million for green street projects along Carlton Street and Fillmore Avenue to collect flows from these areas and to turn vacant land into green space

$7.5 million for demonstration projects to determine how to maximize wastewater and stormwater storage with real time control technology

$18 million to construct the Hamburg Drain Floatable Control Facility to control entry of large floating debris into the Niagara River

$8 million for a storage project at Smith Street to reduce raw sewage overflows into the

Niagara River

In addition to these projects, $93 million will be spent on green infrastructure for between 1,315 and 1,620 acres of impervious surface throughout Buffalo. Projects will include vacant property demolitions, vacant lot modifications to allow for infiltration, pervious pavements, rain gardens, downspout disconnections and rain barrels. The Buffalo Sewer Authority will also invest $41 million in upgrades at its Bird Island Wastewater Treatment Plant to increase the treatment capacity for sewage and stormwater run-off and to ensure that all discharges receive adequate disinfection. Other projects will increase the system’s ability to collect and transport wastewater. The Buffalo Sewer Authority estimates that total costs will be approximately $380 million over 20 years.

“Sustainability”

imagesCAJURKCUSustainability is a catch phrase used by laymen and experts in several fields.  The word sustainability by original definition meant the ability to sustain, or the potential to keep things the same way.  Now, people in all areas have made their own definition of sustainability to the point where the true definition has been lost.  Perhaps this isn’t on accident; as the thermodynamic principle of entropy states, entropy is forever increasing, which states that things cannot stay the same.  Therefore true “sustainability” is not possible, in any field, for any area.  It is impossible.

That being said, the term “sustainability” for my purposes in environmental engineering represents the ideas and efforts made to preserve a natural system, or even better, to minimally disrupt a system despite inevitable changes to the respective environment; including increasing population, urbanization, temperature and energy changes.  Though “sustainability” has become the buzz-word of environmental discussions world-wide, I respectfully recommend the use of  “Low Impact Design” as an alternative.  I know, three words to replace one isn’t ideal, however, those three words do have one less syllable, so to me, it’s justified.