Brooklyn College Tackles Pollutants with Innovative Green Infrastructure Project

Green infrastructure collects and redirects rainwater. / Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

This fall Brooklyn College is leading a Hybrid Green Infrastructure project to remove pollutants, alleviate drainage issues, and allow for water storage and reuse.

The project, led by Professor and Chair of Earth and Environmental Sciences Jennifer Cherrier, acts as a “sponge” to absorb rain and break up patches of concrete in cities. The Hybrid Green Infrastructure project is slated to be installed on the west side of Ingersoll, between Ingersoll and the security house off of Bedford Avenue.

According to Cherrier, the project, which has “a lot of moving parts” is federally funded and will prevent New York City’s overflowing untreated wastewater from draining directly into rivers, bays, and oceans.

“So, you punch a hole in the cement and you put in a natural system and so now the water can be intercepted through that, so it slows down the flow of the water for at least 24 hours, so that the waste treatment plants have a chance to recover,”  said Cherrier, a researcher of at least 26 years.

Cherrier continued, “That’s what it’s all about, green infrastructure, where you take that cement away and you put sand and soil in there and you say,” ‘Okay, the water can be intercepted,’ and you size them to take a certain amount of water.”

Currently, one of Cherrier’s projects known as the eco-WEIR, an ecosystem-based, hybrid stormwater management system, has been installed in Prospect Park in Brooklyn to assist in clearing up the pond water from algal blooms. This is a part of the plan to combat combined sewage overflow.

“It’s a way, if you’re in a drought-ridden area, to reuse water on site, so this is called a site stormwater treatment,” Cherrier said. it’s very important right now and cities are looking at this as a way to manage water,” she said.

According to a statement from the Prospect Park Alliance, a community parks organization, “the filtration system and its results will be monitored over the course of multiple seasons to determine if the pilot study is a success. If successful, the Prospect Park ecoWEIR project will be replicable in parks nationwide.”

On a rainy day in New York City, as rain water rushes through the streets and into a combined sewer system that also collects sewage from buildings, there is a danger of the sewage systems filling and overflowing. Part of the solution has been to create “green infrastructure” that would break up concrete to expose patches of spongy soil to absorb a rain downfall. Cherrier’s team have created a method to “control what happens in the sponge” through a sealed system that includes valves and pipes that hide under greenspace and urban gardens. Cherrier, who has been working on green infrastructure projects since 2002, has patented this idea for the underground infrastructure system

According to Cherrier, the Green Infrastructure project is still underway. Currently, there is no estimated completion date.

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