Pollution from urban runoff is the main reason that 40% of the lakes, rivers, and streams in the United States are unsuitable for fishing and swimming. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Shaw & Sons, Inc., a concrete construction company based in Costa Mesa, CA, has launched a patented new system that captures, cleanses and recycles stormwater and urban runoff from parking facilities, plazas and other hardscape structures in a simple, cost-effective manner that is in tune with today's rising concerns about environmental quality and conservation of natural resources.
Called Oceansafe, the system is a low cost /low impact stormwater management concept that mimics nature's cleansing process and meets the needs of architects, developers and owners who are designing and building more environmentally sensitive projects, especially in urban areas. The system can be installed as part of hardscape structures such as parking facilities, plazas, sports arenas, sidewalks, and roadways and is almost 100% effective in collecting and recycling water runoff.
"Oceansafe is a more effective stormwater containment and management system that can be installed at any facility to address non source-point stormwater runoff," explains Lee Shaw, president of Oceansafe Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Lithocrete, a decorative concrete company founded by Shaw & Sons. "Our tests show that for so-called 'first flush' stormwater containment, it's the most effective system yet developed," Shaw notes. First flush is the first ¾ of an inch of water generated from a rain storm or other runoff and is considered the most critical to capture and cleanse because it contains most of the particles and other elements that are harmful to the environment.
Shaw points out that Oceansafe not only reduces urban runoff, but it also collects, stores, filters, and recharges local groundwater tables, saving municipalities the need to import thousands of acre feet of water. As an added benefit, a sustainability consultant has calculated that Oceansafe has the potential for a real estate project to earn up to 13 LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) credits with the correct design and implementation of the system, a significant addition for any development pursuing LEED certification.
In metropolitan and urban environments, large parking and vehicle use areas produce significant amounts of hydrocarbons and rubber and copper residues from vehicles. "These contaminants must be removed from the water prior to allowing it to percolate naturally into the pervious lens," Shaw explains. "The long term effects of allowing unfiltered water containing contaminants to percolate into the water table and aquifer are well known and can be extremely damaging to the environment."
Shaw says that prevailing federal, state and municipal regulations mandating stormwater containment and management have not been very effective in metropolitan and urban areas. "In places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the rapid growth of those cities and the associated rapid increase in property prices, coupled with the lack of affordable open land, has left all the regulatory agencies involved in stormwater runoff management scrambling to find a viable, cost-effective solution," he says. "Catchment basins and water retention ponds require large land areas and are not readily available in the metropolitan and urban environment."