San Diego business using Navy technology to trap stormwater pollution

IMAGE
Credit: Z.A. Landers/Navy

California Filtration Specialists has signed a patent license agreement with a U.S. Navy laboratory for water treatment technologies that remove toxic metals from stormwater runoff before they contaminate streams, lakes, and harbor bays.

The certified, women-owned business in San Diego has 24 employees who specialize in low-cost, high-tech solutions for stormwater management in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

The agreement, which includes undisclosed financial terms, was finalized in late June and allows the company to begin commercial offering of a patented biofilter and absorbent chamber technology that removes metals from stormwater runoff, e.g., copper, mercury, and zinc, below permitted concentrations.

The filtering technologies were developed by a research team at the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Port Hueneme, and installed at the metal polishing yard at Naval Base Point Loma's recycling center.

The system, which is installed underground, costs approximately $20,000 per acre of watershed, a massive savings compared to the $57,000 per acre for the previously installed commercial technology, according to the Navy.

The company plans to use the licensed invention at a variety of its customer's industrial facilities, particularly those that fall under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements.

In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency developed regulations to control stormwater discharges associated with eleven categories of industrial activity, including material handling and storage, equipment maintenance and cleaning, and industrial processing. As a result, either the EPA or a state environmental agency issues stormwater permits to industrial facilities and municipalities after instituting a stormwater pollution prevention plan.

"We'll install the system for our customers much as it is at Naval Base Point Loma," said Mitch Whitson, vice president of California Filtration Specialists. "The runoff will be routed into a pre-treatment biofiltration chamber before entering a three-tiered absorbent chamber that removes what's left of microscopic metals."

Stopping metal pollutants from reaching waterways and the oceans means cleaner drinking water and the prevention of disease in fish and other aquatic organisms.

Marti Elder, senior technology manager at TechLink, helped the company develop its license application and advised on the legal review of the license agreement. TechLink is a nonprofit agency funded by the Department of Defense that assists companies in licensing the military's thousands of inventions. On hundreds of inventions, including this one, TechLink offers "express licensing" to speed transactions.

"The Navy's system is effective for industrial sites, requires little upkeep, and meets strict regulatory requirements cost-effectively," Elder said. "And like many of the DoD's inventions, a prototype proved to the company the patents' value. It's a win-win agreement, benefiting the military, economy, and environment."

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Troy Carter
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