EPA's new green parking lot allows scientists to study permeable surfaces that may help the environment

Oct 28, 2009

Paved parking lots and driveways make our lives easier, but they often create an easy pathway for pollutants to reach underground water sources and alter the natural flow of water back into the ground. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a study that will investigate ways to reduce pollution that can run off paved surfaces and improve how water filters back into the ground.

EPA is testing a variety of different permeable pavement materials and rain gardens in the parking lot at the agency's Edison, N.J. facility, which houses offices and its laboratory. Most major sources of pollution going into our waterways are well-controlled, but pollution runoff from hard surfaces remains a complicated problem.

"Runoff from parking lots and driveways is a significant source of in the United States and puts undo stress on our water infrastructure, especially in densely-populated urban areas," said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. "By evaluating different designs and materials, this study will help us develop strategies to lessen the environmental impacts of parking lots across the country and make our communities more sustainable."

This summer, EPA replaced a 43,000-square-foot section of the parking lot at its Edison facility with three different types of permeable pavement and planted several rain gardens with varying vegetation for the study. Over the next decade, EPA will evaluate the effectiveness of each pavement type and the rain gardens in removing pollutants from stormwater, and how they help water filter back into the ground. The parking lot will be functional during the study to accurately evaluate how the different types of pavement handle traffic and vehicle-related pollution like leaking oil.

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snow flows over land or impervious surfaces, like parking lots or rooftops, and does not readily flow back into the ground. As the runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces, it accumulates debris, chemicals, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff discharged is not properly treated.

This study is part of an effort by EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory to evaluate permeable pavement as it relates to stormwater management practices on a national scale. While the installation of permeable pavement systems has become more prevalent, there is a lack of full-scale, outdoor, real-world permeable pavement research projects.

EPA also recognizes the potential of rain gardens as a green infrastructure management tool to
lessen the effects of peak flows on aquatic resources. While local governments and homeowners are building many of these systems, relatively few studies have quantified the ability of rain gardens to allow the ground to better absorb and filter stormwater, which reduces peak flows.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Explore further: Indians rally against climate change ahead of UN talks

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EPA's stormwater program needs a significant overhaul

Oct 15, 2008

Radical changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater program are necessary to reverse degradation of fresh water resources and ensure progress toward the Clean Water Act's goal of "fishable and swimmable" ...

Rain gardens touted as pollution removers

Jan 26, 2006

University of Connecticut scientists say properly designed "rain gardens" can trap and retain up to 99 percent of common pollutants in urban storm runoff.

Pavement sealcoat a source of toxins in stormwater runoff

Apr 08, 2009

Driveways and parking lots may look better with a layer of sealcoat applied to the pavement, but the water running off the surface into nearby streams will be carrying more than just oxygen and hydrogen molecules. ...

Researchers count lots of parking lots

Sep 11, 2007

U.S. drivers like lots of parking lots, according to a study that shows in some Indiana areas parking spaces outnumber resident drivers 3-to-1.

Study Suggests Cost-Effective Way to Capture Storm Runoff

Nov 10, 2008

Researchers at UC Riverside have proposed a cost-effective alternative to capture stormwater runoff that could help communities suffering water shortages and reduce the amount of pollution flowing into ecologically sensitive ...

Recommended for you

Green dream: Can UN summit revive climate issue?

18 hours ago

Five years ago, the environment movement was in its heyday as politicians, actors, rock stars and protestors demanded a looming UN summit brake the juggernaut of climate change.

Rio's Olympic golf course in legal bunker

Sep 18, 2014

The return of golf to the Olympics after what will be 112 years by the time Rio hosts South America's first Games in 2016 comes amid accusations environmental laws were got round to build the facility in ...

User comments : 0