Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Absorbing Solution Eyed for Pollution; New Paving Material Reduces Road Runoff

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Absorbing Solution Eyed for Pollution; New Paving Material Reduces Road Runoff

Article excerpt

Byline: STEVE PATTERSON

Pouring water through a hard surface sounds like a bit from a magician's act.

Jacksonville officials wonder if pouring it through roads could help some water pollution problems disappear.

A City Hall panel is studying whether novel kinds of pavement that let water flow through them could be used to control runoff at new construction sites and in downtown areas, where rain flows off roads and almost straight into the St. Johns River.

"All large cities, not just Jacksonville ... have a sea of impervious pavement," said Vince Seibold, chief of the city's Environmental Quality Division.

When a heavy rain starts, he said, "water is immediately directed into whatever water body you have going by."

Holding stormwater in ponds or the ground for a while helps break down some pollutants before they reach the river.

But in areas like downtown, mostly built before retention ponds were common, rains entering drainage lines flush not only oil and road trash into the river but also fresh water, quickly lowering the salinity in an area that is supposed to be partly salty.

"If you're trying to replicate natural hydrology, you wouldn't get those," Seibold said. "Those peaks of fresh water and high volumes ... could be attenuated. That's why it's such an important [possibility]."

Seibold is part of a group in the city's little-known Subdivisions Standards and Policy Advisory Committee looking for ways to make local construction design codes more sustainable.

A "low-impact" design manual the committee is drafting starts with roads and rights-of-way.

Doing more to manage storm runoff is part of a clean-water project, finalized two years ago, in which governments, utilities and businesses are forecast to spend more than $600 million to reduce levels of algae-feeding nitrogen and phosphorus in the St. Johns locally.

Pervious pavements - concrete or asphalt designed to accept water - have been available since the 1980s, said Amanda Hult, market development manager for Cemex USA. …

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