CSU, Chico News

Students Awarded Grant to Develop Sustainable Storm Water Filters

Date: 03-01-2016

Zachary Phillips
Public Affairs
Sandrine Matiasek, professor
Geological and Environmental Sciences

An interdisciplinary team of California State University, Chico students was awarded $14,963 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to research and develop sustainable biofiltration technology for small urban areas like Chico.

The CSU, Chico team is one of only seven in California selected for the grant, and is comprised of six students across the civil engineering, chemistry and environmental science majors:

  • Harry Mills, chemistry
  • Sophia Bauer, environmental science
  • Spencer Carroll, environmental science
  • Mark Triassi, environmental science
  • Autumn Reagan, civil engineering
  • James Norris, civil engineering

The grant is a part of the EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Environment (P3) Student Design Competition, which gives university students the opportunity to develop innovative, sustainable products and designs. It operates in two phases, the first of which awards university student teams grant money to develop sustainable technology. The second phase occurs in April, when each team brings its design and research to the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., and competes to receive up to $75,000 to expand and implement its design.

Using Chico as the staging ground for their research, the students will develop green methods for filtering urban storm water runoff in order to reduce the impact of sediments, pesticides, metals and other pollutants on local aquatic ecosystems.

"Biofiltration is a really relevant area of research and a promising, sustainable solution for dealing with urban storm runoff, especially up here in the North State where we deal with strong storm events in the winter,” said Sandrine Matiasek, geological and environmental sciences professor and faculty investigator for the project.

According to their project abstract, titled “Evaluating Biofiltration in Small Urban Areas: Chico, California Case Study,” the team plans on testing the effectiveness of biofiltration using sand, compost, lava rock, zeolite (an absorbent mineral), and native, drought resistant plants. Matiasek said that their research explores relatively new territory in regards to testing and adapting sustainable filtration processes.

“What this project is trying to do is bring in science to back up this new solution to dealing with storm runoff," Matiasek said. “The goal is to fill in a gap in knowledge. Large urban areas are already required to deal with storm runoff. So far, it hasn't really been implemented for small urban areas because of cost."

Matiasek added that on top of gaining experience in biofiltration research, the student team is also partnering with local organizations and resources to develop its design. The students have already collaborated with the Center for Water and the Environment on campus, with Facilities Management Services to acquire soil samples, and are planning on meeting with the Campus Sustainability Committee and the City of Chico to present their research results.

For more information on the EPA’s P3 grant, visit the program’s website. The website also offers a complete list of grant recipients, 38 projects total.