Rhode Island Patent of the Month – October 2021

Stormwater runoff is usually subjected to a filtration system to remove contaminants like oil, nitrogen, bacteria, heavy metals, and sediments. These contaminants can come from point sources such as spills from chemical plants, or from non-point sources such as build up from combined pollutant loading from multiple sources. Regardless of where they come from, pollutants that are not filtered out can impact receiving waters such as streams, lakes, and rivers. MMT, Inc. has designed a bioretention system for use in stormwater filtration.

Bioretention systems use natural components – from trees and vegetation to soils and sands – to take advantage of the earth’s natural filtration processes. Their design treats stormwater runoff coming from surfaces like streets, grassy areas, rooftops and more. They use an open-bottomed container with a top sidewall allowing access to the atmosphere. Each side of the container has holes spaced throughout. Inside the container is a mixed filter media with both organic and non-organic materials. A live tree is positioned within the container so that its roots reach throughout the filtration media and can spread outside of the container as it grows, spreading out through the holes in the walls.

In practice, incoming stormwater flows immediately into the container bringing the contaminants with it. Sand, sediment, and other floatable matter accumulate on the surface of the bioretention media. As the water passes through the media, additional contaminants are filtered out. Organic nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus adhere to the media. The tree can uptake these nutrients as needed, creating a symbiotic relation between filtering the water and growing the tree. Once the water filters all the way down, it can communicate with the bottom layer of stone. Depending on the situation, the water can either continue into the water table in its filtered state, or can be captured through an underdrain pipe which directs water to its next location. With this bioretention system in place, there is a high degree of filtration with consistently reliable results.

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