WOOSTER: The College of Wooster and a Wayne County company are investigating a new way to clean campus stormwater.
The plan is based on constructing stormwater gardens that contain ABSMaterials Inc.’s patented swelling glass, Osorb, to capture and treat contaminants in the stormwater.
Osorb, developed in 2005 by College of Wooster chemistry professor Paul L. Edmiston, is a super-absorbent, sponge-like substance. It can remove 90 to 100 percent of such pollutants as oil, grease, pesticides, solvents and nutrients.
Without Osorb, those pollutants would drain from campus into Killbuck Creek and reduce water quality.
ABSMaterials is surveying the campus with a final report outlining the plan, due to the college in February. Work could begin in the summer on the project’s first phase on the northwest edge of campus along North Bever Street, company CEO Stephen Spoonamore said.
Such a system would require up to 25 gardens covering up to 92 acres on the Wooster campus, he said. It would cost between $400,000 and $850,000 to fully implement.
The college’s decision to include Osorb as a stormwater cleaner came after a test on the campus.
“We have a strong commitment to becoming a more sustainable campus, and this idea holds great potential to help us further that goal,” said Grant H. Cornwell, Wooster’s president.
Two small test gardens were built 18 months ago on campus to test the system under a National Science Foundation study. The rectangular gardens are roughly 22 feet by 16 feet and handled the runoff from 3½ acres.
Dr. Hanbae Yang, a company environmental engineer, determined that the garden with Osorb mixed with soils had been “two to nine times more effective at improving water quality than any other stormwater system documented.”
The Wooster system would deal mostly with the untreated stormwater runoff from the 20 acres of paved parking areas on the 240-acre campus, Spoonamore said.
It would not deal from rooftop runoff that drains to dry wells and to the underground aquifer, he said.
Spoonamore said it would take two additional phases and up to four years to complete the campus project. There are old drain tiles that funnel runoff from the surrounding city onto campus, and that water must be treated.
Including that off-campus drainage area, a total of about 190 acres would be included in the project, he said. The eastern section of the campus would be the last area to get the stormwater gardens.
The Osorb would be mixed with the soil, removing the contamination via reductive chemistry. Spoonamore said the system would be good for about 10 years.
The college wants to combine nano-engineered glass and a green stormwater system to create a zero-stormwater discharge campus, under preliminary plans.
Edmiston’s discovery led to the formation of two companies: privately held ABSMaterials Inc. in Wooster in 2008 and its wholly owned subsidiary, Produced Water Absorbents LLC, in Houston, in 2009.
The company has signed a licensing agreement with the College of Wooster. The college will benefit financially as ABSMaterials grows.
ABS started with four employees, now has 42, Spoonamore said, and that number is expected to grow again by summer.
He said the company is projecting $7 million in sales in 2013. It has nine stormwater customers and five oil-gas companies as customers.
Ursuline College in Pepper Pike and Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., are both installing small Osorb-based storm gardens.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.