Primary Investigator: Steve Sternberg
Co-Investigators: Chan Lan Chun, Kristofer Isaacson (Graduate Scholar)
Industry Partners: ME Elecmetal, American Peat Technology
Award Type: Seed Grant – Graduate Research Scholar

ProblemStormwater runoff is recognized as the leading cause of water quality issues nationwide. Here in Minnesota, and specifically, in communities reliant on mineral extraction and manufacturing, stormwater runoff often mobilizes heavy metal and other contaminants, which are detrimental to the ecosystem and human health. While passive bio-reactors are proven tools for treatment and remediation of stormwater, further investigation is required to fully understand which bio-based materials and microbial communities are best combined for the removal of specific contaminants of concern.

Solution: ME Elecmetal is a Duluth-based foundry producing heavy equipment that is also seeking new and effective ways of preventing the release of contaminants from their properties during stormwater events. They are teaming up with the University of Minnesota researchers to analyze and identify bio-materials (e.g., manure, compost, crushed stone, woodchips, and peat) that are effective at removing various contaminants, such as aluminum, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfate from stormwater. The project will collect stormwater samples from ME Elecmetal’s Duluth site and analyze them in different bioreactor systems to determine which bio-based media + microbe + environmental/flow conditions provide an adequate remediation system under multiple conditions.  

Impact: In addition to furthering our understanding of bio-based stormwater treatment technologies, this project will provide specific analysis and insight on the optimized treatment system and remediation approach for a whole category of facilities similar to ME Elecmetal. Once identified, the highest-performing treatment option could be added as a layer underneath permeable pavement or built into retention pond walls. This would not only improve passive heavy metal removal in stormwater at ME Elecmetal’s site, but potentially at numerous other facilities.

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