Water Quality: Solving Stormwater Runoff a Natural Way

I have participated in three research projects exploring stormwater runoff, and a solution, bioretention systems.

Photo of Adeline Rang
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Date You Started Your Project Started

February 19, 2018

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Stormwater runoff is full of toxins, primarily from car tire particles that are washing into storm drains and negatively affecting our aquatic ecosystems. I have spent the last three years doing research on the effects of these toxins and am working on effective ways to filter them out to protect our waterways. If we continue to allow these toxins in our water, wildlife habitats as well as the fisheries and agricultural industries will suffer.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

I have tested different methods of filtering out toxins from storm water as well as well as relying on previous research. I have proven that the mechanical filtration filters that many communities have installed, do keep the physical tire particles out of the storm drain system, but do nothing to remove the toxins from the water. Additional research I have done has proven that permeable pavements add more toxins to the water than they filter out which also means that is not a viable solution. However, the project I completed with my partner on bioretention filtration of stormwater proved that it could be an effective solution to the storm water toxicity problem. Studying this solution further and making an easily replicable system that could be used to filter stormwater in all communities could improve aquatic ecosystems worldwide.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

Without the scientific research I have participated in, I would not have been able to prove that stormwater runoff is toxic to our aquatic ecosystems and I would not have been able to prove what remedies are ineffective or effective. Many communities in my state have installed fabric filtration systems in storm drains that are effective in filtering out particles, but have done nothing to filter out the toxins that are damaging, fish and the environment. We are dependent on science to prove there is a problem as well as potential remedies for the problem.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I have always been interested in science. My first science project as a freshman took me to the FFA National Agriscience Fair where I won gold and was hooked. Each year since I learned about the damage and risks to our aquatic ecosystems I have worked toward a solution for toxins in our waterways. I have grown up in the Puget Sound and love to fish. I eat food grown on local farms that use this water to irrigate their crops. I fish in local lakes and rivers and out in the sound on charter boats. Toxins are being found in salmon who are eating fish who eat microscopic Ceriodaphnia Dubia that live in drainage areas who are full of these toxins. Everyone drives and no one even thinks about the tire particles being left behind on the roadways and what damage they might do. This is a vital issue to the economy of WA State, the fishing industry, our environment and our health and well being.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

I have spent hundreds of hours in the lab researching the problems with storm water toxicity as well as solutions. I have presented my project in my community and at the state and national levels to raise awareness of the issue.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

I think my project has an incredibly sound scientific foundation. It also has significant potential for the greatest impact. If we can solve the problem of toxins in stormwater potentially the entire world could benefit.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

In the last three months I have presented my project at the PLU science fair. This project gained a good deal of recognition in the community and on their website since it placed first. I was invited to present my project at the International Science and Engineering Fair, which would have given my research and ideas a significant amount more exposure, but this was cancelled due to the COVID 19 virus. I was able to upload a video to the ISEF website detailing my research so I am hopeful this will spread information on the issue. I am also presenting my project to the WA State FFA Agriscience competition and hoping to compete next fall at the National FFA Agriscience competition for my fourth year. I ultimately will know I've made a difference when bioretention filtration systems are in place in our communities and cleaning our water!

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I hope to be able to continue working on research into college (I am graduating next month) and working toward developing/perfecting the most effective bio retention system to filter out storm water toxins. I am enrolled at Oregon State University for the fall and as a member of the Honors College will have the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research. OSU is home to one of the few labs in the US that offers diagnostic services for zebrafish which is one of the fish that I have used to conduct my research so I am hopeful that I will be able to work with zebrafish there. I am hoping through connections there to be able to advance development of an effective filtration system.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Since I have discovered how toxins enter our waterways and simple steps we can all do to impact this, I have been able to share this information with my classmates and others that I interact with through social clubs and volunteer work. I have also used social media to help raise awareness of the issue and volunteer at my school district STEM fair to help encourage other young people to participate in important research.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

Well, I am really invested in the research piece, but could partner with another changemaker who is more skilled on the development end of things. I imagine there are other changemakers who are interested in water purity and ecosystem health who may have projects closely related to mine that we could work together on solutions.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

I think once people are aware, it is easy to see how the issue of storm water toxicity affects all of us through biomagnification and needs to be addressed. I find I am most effective when meeting with others one on one or in small groups to discuss my research and educate them on the issues. Once I explain and connect with people, I find it has been easy to obtain their buy-in. People also appreciate they don't have to change their behavior if proper filtrations systems are put in place

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Probably - 75%

Maybe - 25%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 50%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 25%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 25%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4 - Yes, I think so - 75%

3 - Maybe - 25%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 0%

3 - Maybe - 33.3%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4 - Yes, I think so - 25%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4- Yes, I think so - 33.3%

3- Maybe - 66.7%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 100%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 50%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 100%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 50%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 50%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 0%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 0%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 0%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 50%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 50%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%


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