CrystalStream Helps Educate 4th Graders on Stormwater

Don Billingsley of CST teaching 4th Graders stormwater management

ELIZABETHTON —CrystalStream Technologies was proud to contribute time to the education of some 500 4th Graders at this years Elizabethton/Carter County Conservation Camp this week. Instead of stuffy classrooms, the students had the spacious outdoors of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area to learn about nature and how to keep the environment clean.

“It’s a good camp,” Hannah Whitson, a student from Harold McCormick Elementary School said. “We learned about recycling and we learned how to help Monarch butterflies by planting the right flowers.” One of the great things about the camp is there are so many things to do and to learn the children hardly have time to be bored. The park is divided into 12 stations and the students move from one station to the next.

For instance, County Agricultural Extension Agent Keith Hart taught the students about the various plants found in the forest which are good to eat, both for animals and for people. There also were stations where the children learned about soil erosion by actually getting to play in the dirt. While Don Billingsley with CrystalStream Technologies took time each day to teach the students about stormwater management and how important it is to keep our natural waterways clean.

Gary Barriger and Kathy Landy had a station right on the bank of the Watauga River where they taught stream ecology with fish, snails, crayfish and insect larvae they had caught that morning in the river. The children appeared to love the up-close look at nature.

The camp is sponsored by the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Director Felicia English said the camps had been held several years ago, but they had been discontinued. “I think these kids are learning a lot about the environment during this camp and I think they are interested in leaving it in as good or better condition than we passed it on to them.”

Among the organizations providing speakers for the stations were the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, CrystalStream Technologies,  National Resource and Conservation Service, University of Tennessee Extension Service, Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Service, Boone Watershed Partnership, city of Elizabethton, Winged Deer Park and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

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On October 24th, 2011, posted in: Newsroom by

CrystalStream Gives Away 3 Day Cruise for 2 to the Bahamas at StormCon 2011

Crystalstream 2011 Stormcon Cruise Giveaway Winner

This year at Stormcon Crystalstream Technologies gave the visitors of their booth a chance to win a cruise for two to the Bahama’s including $100 in onboard ship credit. Everyone at CST was very excited about this opportunity and thought what better way to reward thier visitors at a conference focused on protecting our natural resources than 3 days at sea.
Please be sure to visit us next year at Stormcon in Colorado for your chance to win even more great prizes.

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On September 16th, 2011, posted in: Blog by

Tons of Success

Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  — Abraham Lincoln, 1863.  At the risk of sounding disrespectful to one of our greatest presidents, these words came to mind today when I looked at our cleaning records from the last eleven years of maintaining our own CrystalStream water quality vaults.  “Eleven years and 12 million pounds of pollutants ago, our company brought forth in this industry a new device, conceived in concern for water quality, and dedicated to the proposition that effective water quality was feasible and affordable.” – John Moll, 2011. 

We just did our latest internal report on how all of our devices are performing, and one part of that report is a total of all the pounds we have hauled away to disposal facilities over the past 11+ years.  The total does not count all the material we have removed during the construction phase on those sites, as this total would be much higher.  The total of 12,094,840 pounds on our report is only that material that was washed off of sites in the post construction phase of their existence.  The first device we sold is still under maintenance and has had over 26,000 pounds of material removed over the past eleven years or so.  Do we sound proud of these facts?  Well, we are.

How can we envision the 12 million pounds of trash, debris, vegetation, oil and sediment that never made it to our lakes, rivers and streams?  If we loaded the material in ten pound bags, we would have 1,209,484 bags of the nasty stuff.  While you are reading this, we will have someone start piling up bags like they were sandbags used to protect from a flood.  If they place one bag every 10 seconds, it will take a mere 201,581 minutes to pile up all those bags (read slowly please).  This is equal to about 3,360 hours or 140 days.  In a short 4 and one half months, they will be finished piling up the bags.  If they put them in a 10 x 10 bag grid (100 bags per layer), and the bags are 6 inches thick, the pile will be over a mile high at 6,047 feet tall.   

I had the sad duty of speaking at the funeral of my partner and co-inventor, Clark Joseph Use` last fall.  The church was full of people who wanted a good way to remember him and his accomplishments.  I used the example of a bag being placed every ten seconds in a procession to honor what he had helped accomplish for our environment.  The idea of a four month long procession seemed to get across to them what Clark had helped achieve.  It brought home to many of them the enormity of what is at stake in water quality, and Clark’s contribution to clean water.  The best part is that the 12 million pounds is not the end of the story.  Every day, these devices continue to collect pollutants from stormwater, and the total will continue to grow.

We truly believe that there is no “removal rate” for any BMP, until someone shows up and removes the material that it has collected.  We believe that our products are good, but they are only as good as the organization that stands behind them.  Can you say that about your BMP?

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On April 22nd, 2011, posted in: Blog by

The Five Thousand Pound Gorilla in the Room is Named McKinley

A question came up about the five thousand gorilla in the room.  What is his name? Our crack research team interviewed the water quality heavyweight and found out his name is “McKinley”. 

This makes total sense, because McKinley represents a mountain of material that many people would like to ignore.  Our ETV testing determined that we had 1,600 pounds of material measured coming into the inlet of our device in Griffin, Georgia, while we had 157 pounds coming out of the outlet.  Of that 1,600 pounds at the inlet, a mere 200 pounds of it was silt and clay (less than 62 microns in size), and a whopping gorilla worthy chunk of it (1,400 pounds) was sand over 62 microns in size.  On the other hand, at the outlet, we only had 24 pounds of sand out of the 157 total, and the rest (133 pounds) was silt and clay. 

Even a monkey can understand that with 1,600 pounds coming in, and about 160 pounds coming out, we caught 90% of the solids.  It might require a 5th grader or Jeff Foxworthy to calculate that we caught 67 pounds out of the 200 pounds of silt and clay that came in the inlet, or 33.5%.  If you do not know how big 62 microns is (we caught 98% of everything bigger than that), a human hair is from 40 to 100 microns in width.  A sheet of copy paper is about 100 microns thick.  So, it really stretches the imagination to think that everything above 62 microns is completely clean and does not matter to the environment.  Still, if you make that leap (a big one, even for a gorilla), and throw out everything we caught above 62 microns, we still caught 34% of everything that came into our device. 

We know that McKinley cannot read, but if he could read, he might be confused.  He would read that we only caught 21% of the solids, according to an analysis method that is inaccurate and not reliable.  That method is one developed by the EPA, called EPA 160.2 (TSS).  This analysis method is well documented to underreport sediment concentrations, and has been shown incapable of working well when sand is present.  The ASTM method of analysis, ASTM D-3977-97 (SSC) is the preferred method, and correctly reflected our performance on this site by reporting an 89% removal rate. 

McKinley represents the big, bad pile of nasty material that would go unreported if we started believing that the wrong analysis method is somehow a good thing.  Yet, people do just that.  They look at our testing and say, “Wow, 89% that’s good, but it was SSC analysis.  What did you get using TSS?”  McKinley is not amused.  He hates being ignored.

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On March 24th, 2011, posted in: Blog by

The Five Thousand Pound Gorilla in the room

There is a five thousand pound gorilla in the water quality design and approval room that no one seems to want to acknowledge.  While I and my colleagues in SWEMA are looked upon with distain by many in the regulatory world, we actually have met the gorilla, and have him in protective custody, if not completely under control.

While the available BMP databases, modeling programs, and regulatory protocols have characterized the average wash off concentrations at 100 to 200 mg/L, the gorilla sits on display for all to see, waiting patiently for someone to do the math.  A recent article in Stormwater Magazine cites the typical total suspended solids at about 1,100 pounds per acre per year (PAY), an oft repeated figure, and one that is accepted as “common knowledge.”  (Note: Stormwater Magazine is an excellent publication.  I read every issue cover to cover.  You should too.)  The reason most people do not question the number is that they have no idea of how a concentration of solids in the range of 100 to 200 milligrams per liter would convert to PAY.  The conversion depends on the amount of rainfall (in inches) that a region has annually.  To convert milligrams per liter to PAY, you have to convert the annual volume of rainfall depth (one acre-inch is 3,630 cubic feet, and one cubit foot is 28.317 liters, so one acre inch is 102,790.2 liters).  A concentration of 1 mg/L would then be 102,790.2 mg, or 102.79 grams.  A mass of 102.79 grams is 0.2266108 pounds.  Every acre-inch of runoff that carries a concentration of 1 mg/L will carry 0.2266108 pounds of mass.  If the concentration is 100 mg/L then the runoff will carry 22.66108 pounds.

Now we can look at an area that has 40 inches of rainfall annually and see what the wash off results might be.  At a concentration of 100 mg/L, then 40 times 22.66108 pounds would be the amount of solids that would be carried off of the site, or 906.44 pounds.  At 200 mg/L the PAY would be 1,812.88 pounds, which brackets the estimated solids loading in the magazine article quite nicely.  To be fair to the article and the magazine, the figures were not cited from specific studies, but were the assumed numbers that have been repeated over and over in the literature.  Even the gorilla would point out that not all the annual rainfall runs off, and that concentrations can vary greatly, but if less water is running off at that concentration, the PAY numbers would go down, not up.

The gorilla is the actual PAY we have found in manufactured devices over the past ten years and 5,000 maintenance and cleaning operations.  The fact is that the average solids removed from these devices has been 5,000 PAY.  Even if we assume that 50 inches of runoff occurred, this is an even 100 pounds of solids per acre-inch, or an average concentration of 441.59 mg/L.  One must remember that the devices that collected this material are the red-headed step-children of BMPs, and are considered to intercept only 50% of the solids (at the most).  This means that the full average concentration of solids must be in the 883 mg/L, if we are to believe the “common” knowledge and assumptions.

The fact is that the assumptions are wrong.  Reliance on wash-off models that predict low concentrations is wrong, and can easily be proven wrong by simply examining the solids in manufactured devices, or in public domain sumps, vaults, oil-grip separators, or fore bays.  These gross errors in estimates have been perpetuated by people with specific interests, including those who want to simplify water quality down to a manual with a few standard practices (all magically removing the targeted percentage in the local permit), and a nice chart or spreadsheet “proving” that the goals have been met.  The gorilla is unimpressed.

Why is the gorilla important?  He is important because perfectly innocent wet ponds, constructed wetlands, porous pavement, infiltration systems, bio-retention cells and many other BMPs are failing early and often because no one wants to admit that there is a gorilla in the room.  No amount of scheming for low concentrations and small particle based BMPs can protect our land based systems and eventually our streams from the onslaught of 5,000 pounds of sediments per acre per year.  If we want to actually clean up our watersheds, we ignore the gorilla at our own peril.

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On February 23rd, 2011, posted in: Blog by