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Biochar used in stormwater management

Sept. 30, 2015--When stormwater runs off impervious surfaces like pavements and roofs, it bypasses nature’s filtering system and moves rapidly through storm drains, sewer systems and drainage ditches into creeks and rivers, carrying with it pollutants such as nutrients, heavy metals and bacteria.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been promoting the use of “green infrastructure” to manage and reduce stormwater pollutants, but the design, installation and maintenance of this type of infrastructure is expensive.

Environmental engineering faculty members Paul Imhoff, Pei Chiu and Julia Maresca at the University of Delaware believe there may be a better way to manage stormwater runoff and pollutants, using existing greenways and landscape areas, and they recently received more than $400,000 to investigate their novel idea.

With funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) IDEA Program, the team will study the use of biochar to improve infiltration, water retention, and nutrient retention and transformation in soils. Biochar is a carbon-rich solid, similar to charcoal, produced as an upcycled byproduct from the pyrolysis of waste biomass.