January 1, 2006 Storm drains fitted with a spongy material -- a synthetic polymer similar to those used in diapers -- can catch household pollutants such as paint and motor oil as they are washed off by the rain. Twenty-eight states are already using the material to stop pollutants from reaching rivers, lakes and oceans.
SANTA MONICA, Calif.--Oil, grease, deadly bacteria and disease are all found in our ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans. Now, a new invention may be the first step to cleaning up our water.
From traffic to urban sprawl, environmentalist Mark Gold says it all leaves our water sources dirty and polluted. "Everything you can think of is a source, whether it's your car, your next door neighbor, yourself," says Mark Gold, an environmentalist from Heal the Bay in Santa Monica, Calif.
One solution for all this pollution is the Smart Sponge Plus. Rodolfo Manzone, a chemist at AbTech Industries in Scottsdale, Ariz., says, "It is a very simple system based on a combination of synthetic polymers."
The Smart Sponge Plus uses the same material found in diapers, roofing, car bumpers, and glue and has an anti-microbial coating that removes pollutants and destroys bacteria. The sponge is placed in existing storm drains to catch the pollutants before they end up in rivers, lakes or the ocean.
Rodolfo says, "It has the capability to absorb, retain oil, grease and nitrocarbons and to lock them in and create solid waste." The sponge can also kill E. coli bacteria. The water in our lakes or rivers may not be safe enough to drink yet, but it is clean enough to swim in. And that's a step in the right direction.
BACKGROUND: Beach closings due to contamination are becoming more and more of a problem every year, thanks to issues of sewage and storm runoffs. Instead of closing the beaches, why not clean up the water? A new technology not only removes pollutants from water, it also destroys bacteria that can cause illness.
THE PROBLEM: A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that 85 percent of the beach closings and health advisory days were caused by dangerously high levels of bacterial found in human or animal waste. The NRDC has urged the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten controls over sewer overflows and stormwater discharges to help ensure that states and municipalities monitor water quality and notify the public when it does not meet bacterial standards.
THE SOLUTION: Smart Sponge Plus is a spongelike material that resembles popcorn and can be used to remove hydrocarbons, oil grease and other toxins in water. It also contains an antimicrobial agent to combat common bacteria such as E. coli and fecal coliform. Unlike other antimicrobials that poison harmful microorganisms, the Smart Sponge Plus ruptures the cell membranes, preventing the microorganisms from functioning or reproducing. It can also transform hydrocarbon pollutants into a stable solid for easy recycling. The Smart Sponge can be inserted directly into storm drains, so there is no need to break up roads, build vaults or create ponds. This makes it easier, cheaper and faster to use than other environmental remediation techniques. Smart Sponge Plus is currently being implemented in Rhode Island and Los Angeles.
ABOUT ANTIMICROBIALS: Antimicrobials describe both natural and synthetic substances, including antibiotics and disinfectants, that can kill or slow down the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. Sometimes microorganisms can develop a resistance over time to an antimicrobial substance, however, so that it is no longer an effective deterrent. Naturally occurring alternatives could help address this problem.