Here Comes the Rain - and an Engineer with Solutions
Meghna Babbar-Sebens, associate professor of water resources engineering, and her team have built and tested a new field-scale prototype of stormwater treatment technologies. These systems, which may fundamentally change the way communities tackle stormwater runoff, are designed to treat the “soup” of contaminants in stormwater runoff, including nutrients, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other hazardous compounds that threaten drinking water quality and aquatic life.
“We’re innovating new, green stormwater technologies that leverage natural systems such as soil, microbes, and plants to improve the capacity and efficiency of stormwater infrastructure in urban areas,” Babbar-Sebens said.
Climate change and the ever-increasing intensity of human activities in urban spaces have created stormwater problems worldwide, including more flooding and deteriorating water quality, she explained.
At the OSU-Benton County Green Stormwater Infrastructure Research Facility in Corvallis, Babbar-Sebens assisted at every step by engineering graduate students Alisha Saduova and Jacqueline Wells, and research scientist Sammy Rivera constructed a hybrid treatment “train” that combines natural and engineered sorbents to reduce threats from multiple stormwater-borne toxicants.
Preliminary findings are encouraging, according to Babbar-Sebens, who expects the research to help urban municipalities implement stormwater control measures that are capable of simultaneously treating several contaminants.
Babbar-Sebens’ work also took her to India during her 2019-2020 sabbatical. She and colleagues from Oregon State and India investigated how hydroinformatics technologies can assist rural farmers to better monitor and manage the impacts of drought caused by climate change. Her team intends to enable farmers and rural communities to use low-cost, data-driven technologies that empower them to better manage water infrastructure, improve long-term water resource management, and decrease their vulnerability to droughts.