In Field of Dreams people from all over the country came to a baseball field to relive their childhood fantasies of playing alongside their favorite players. The playing field in the movie was magical…but how about polluted?
Pollution is certainly a problem in the real world, and especially in our nation’s waterways. Everything from household cleaners to industrial waste can end up in our reservoirs and lakes.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) fund TTI‘s Hydraulics, Sedimentation, and Erosion Control Laboratory (HSECL), a state-of-the-art facility focused on our nation’s water quality. Other states use the facility through the HSECL Pooled Fund Project, an effort supported nationally by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This project maximizes the lab’s capabilities and gives the participating states priority in using the facility and receiving test results.
“The HSECL provides the transportation industry a uniform and timely testing and research program,” states Associate Research Scientist Beverly Storey, who also heads TTI‘s Environmental Management Program. “Products, materials, devices and methods used for storm water quality improvement, erosion and sediment control, and the design and management of sustainable roadsides all fall under research done at the facility, that is then shared with other state transportation agencies.”
Sediment runoff is the number one pollutant of our waterways, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Contaminants, such as oil and gasoline, can attach to the sediment particles and be carried into water supplies by storm water runoff. During road construction, sediment retention is particularly difficult to manage, but TTI Assistant Research Scientist Jett McFalls says it is imperative that appropriate measures be taken to ensure regulatory compliance.
TTI‘s facility is recognized as one of the premiere facilities of its type in the world. Since 1990, the HSECL has regularly updated the Approved Products List (APL) for erosion control materials it created in 1990. Many states, and even some municipalities such as Austin, Texas, not only utilize the APL, but also require manufacturers to have their materials tested at the facility prior to approving its use.
“For the first time, runoff at construction sites will have to meet EPA restrictions called Effluent Limitation Guidelines,” says McFalls. “Although we don’t expect the new guidelines to come out for a few years, we’ll already know which products meet those restrictions due to the new Sediment Retention Device [SRD] testing program.” The SRD test flume is the first full-scale testing program and will soon lead to an APL being developed for such devices.
“The HSECL is a valuable tool for TxDOT and TTI in testing erosion control products,” explains Dennis Markwardt, director of vegetation management in TxDOT‘s Maintenance Division. “The lab has proven itself over time by producing reliable, meaningful data. Expanding into the sedimentation arena will continue to provide benefits for Texas and the rest of the nation.”