Stormwater is just rain, snow, or any other type of precipitation once it hits the ground. When stormwater lands on a natural surface it soaks into the ground, but when it lands on a built surface it runs off and concentrates. If this concentrated stormwater is not managed it can cause erosion, carry pollution to streams and lakes, and cause flooding.
Infiltronics Environmental was founded in 2014 by Dr. Kathleen Trauth to hold intellectual property for a stormwater management device. The patent for this device was issued to Dr. Trauth in 2016. The company has been actively involved in testing and commercialization activities for the patented device since 2017. Infiltronics Environmental's goal is to help engineers and developers easily and cost effectively meet stormwater regulations, while at the same time dramatically improving soil and water quality in and around their sites.
The core technology Infiltronics Environmental is working to develop is a patented stormwater redistribution and infiltration device that functions as a Best Management Practice (BMP). The device works by taking stormwater that has concentrated on something like a parking lot, roof, or roadway and putting it back into the soil where it can be redistributed and allowed to infiltrate, mimicking natural processes. It is composed of geo-textile fabric segments and a variety of aggregates. The goal of the device is not simply conveyance (like a french drain). Instead, the configuration of aggregate segments moves water at a rate and throughout a landscape to maximize infiltration vertically and horizontally before moving the water longitudinally (3-D flow) along the length of the installation. The ability to essentially engineer this 3-D flow throughout a landscape, and make it specific to each site, is the crux of the innovation.
In 2017 Infiltronics Environmental participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program to conduct extensive customer discovery and make sure we were actually solving a problem for someone, not just making something we thought was cool. Over 200 interviews were conducted across the U.S. with regulators, engineers, developers, contractors, environmental groups, and technology companies in the stormwater industry to learn what their problems are and how we can create a solution to solve them. We addressed the technical unknowns around the device by first running lab experiments. During these experiments we were able to produce 3-D flow and continuous flow from longitudinal segment to segment. This led to us pursuing field testing. Field testing is in progress at several sites and soil moisture data is being collected to demonstrate the functionality of the device.
Stormwater management regulatory requirements are based on the Clean Water Act. Over time there has been an evolution and growth in these requirements from peak discharge reduction to water quality criteria to onsite retention. The stormwater management device being developed by Infiltronics Environmental has a variety of applications in stormwater management and can meet certain regulatory requirements. These include meeting onsite retention requirements, acting as part of a treatment train, mitigating erosion issues, supporting base flow, stormwater management for site redevelopment or retrofit, reduction in basin size, stormwater management in tight or unusual spaces, reduction of overland pollutant transport, and reduction of flow to combined sewer systems.
Test sites are very important in the development of the stormwater management device. They provide data on how the device works, which is important for adoption of the device in real world projects and for the creation of a design tool. The test sites also allow different configurations and use cases to be tested and valuable information is also gained on how the installation process should be conducted. Infiltronics Environmental currently has several test sites, more specific information is below, and is working to secure several more.
Soil moisture data is being collected from the test sites. Soil moisture sensors are placed in a three dimensional grid around the installations so water movement in those three directions can be tracked. This data is being used for development of a design tool for engineers specifying the product and as evidence of the device's functionality for consulting engineers and regulatory bodies.
Maintenance is an incredibly important consideration for any stormwater management method. It is particularly important for this device because clogging is something that needs to be avoided. Sedimentation boxes are used to settle out debris before water enters the installations. The lids of these boxes are flush with the ground level and can easily be accessed for periodic cleaning. The installation is composed of a collection of separate units installed end to end in a shallow excavation. If clogging of the device were to occur, it would primarily occur in the first section of the installation which could easily be accessed and replaced.
The device is a tubular structure composed of aggregate-filled geotextile segments. It produces 3-D flow dictated by differences in the hydraulic conductivities as a result of different aggregate sizes. It is a modular system of devices, with many individual units being placed end to end in an installation. Soil characteristics, site slope, impervious cover, rain fall, site layout, and applicable regulations are considered when a particular mix, number of units, and layout are determined. Pictures of the device can be found in the patent and in photos below.
The installation at Fr. Tolton Catholic High School manages concentrated flow. Soil moisture data is currently being collected on the site.
The first site at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park manages overland flow. Soil moisture data is currently being collected on the site. The projects at the state park are being conducted as part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources research program.
The second site at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park manages both concentrated and continuous flow and soil moisture data is currently being collected. The projects at the state park are being conducted as part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources research program.
It is true that clay does not move water as quickly as other soil textures, but that does not mean that it does not move it at all. An important fact to remember is that soil infiltration studies are conducted on ground up samples. When considering soil infiltration rates the soil structure (such as roots and worm holes) need to be taken into account since they are natural paths into the soil. Additionally, since the device redistributes water around a site, and not just in one location, like swales or infiltration trenches do, any portion of soil only needs to take a part of the total. On our first test site we had a consultation and site analysis conducted by a soil scientist. The site is composed of 6" lifts composed of compacted glacial till and 40% clay, traditionally not ideal for infiltration. However, even with this soil we are seeing water infiltrating three-dimensionally.
Clogging is definitely something we are aware of and working to avoid. In our first installation we used sedimentation basins to remove as many solids as possible from the water before it enters the units. These are located flush to ground level so they can easily be accessed for inspection and maintenance. The fabric we use is commonly used in construction and landscaping applications when water needs to move between two layers of separated media. Any loss of flow from clogging has been shown to level off over time and this reduction can be considered in design, like sedimentation in a pond would be. Finally, the units are installed in only 18" deep trenches and are installed in 3' lengths. If clogging were to occur, it would be in the first segment, and that could easily be excavated and replaced by a new 3' segment.
We see this product being used in a variety of areas. These include meeting onsite retention requirements, acting as part of a treatment train, mitigating erosion issues, supporting base flow, stormwater management for site redevelopment or retrofit, reduction in basin size, stormwater management in tight or unusual spaces, reduction of overland pollutant transport, and reduction of flow to combined sewer systems
This product will be used by consulting civil engineers. The engineers will use this technology in development projects, redevelopment projects, erosion mitigation projects, and a variety of other applications. They will be working on behalf of their clients, usually developers and municipalities, who hire them to make sure the project is designed to meet their needs, is safe, and follows all regulations it is subject to.
To quantifiably see how the devices in our test sites are functioning, we install a collection of soil moisture sensors around the installations. With these sensors we can see water after a storm move through our system and out in a "plume" around the units.
French drains are composed of a trench lined with geotextile fabric and filled with gravel and a perforated pipe. They work to convey water away from a location, such as a foundation, as quickly as possible. The pipe in the trench helps to move the water quickly, but also greatly reduces the possible infiltration in the french drain.
We currently have three test installations, one at Fr. Tolton Catholic High School and two in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park.
In addition to our installations at Fr. Tolton Catholic High School and in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, we are in the process of securing additional testing locations around the State of Missouri.
We are continuing to collect and analyze data from our installations and are non-resident clients of the Missouri Innovation Center and members of the REDI Innovation HUB.
President and Founder of Infiltronics Environmental LLC
Dr. Trauth is a licensed professional civil engineer in Missouri and New Mexico and is also a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Missouri, where she specializes in teaching and conducting research in hydrology, hydraulics, and regulatory compliance. Kathleen Trauth has 35 years of experience in both the technical and regulatory sides of engineering.
Chief Technical Officer, Infiltronics Environmental LLC
Virginia Trauth has a degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Missouri and has earned her Engineering Intern certificate. She has experience constructing and running research projects in a lab setting. Additionally, she has design experience in civil engineering consulting and the utility industry.
Quinten Messbarger is the Vice President of the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia, MO. Quinten’s focus is coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs who are launching high-growth ventures to commercialize innovations in a variety of different industries. He works with clients to help conduct feasibility studies, develop business plans, secure SBIR/STTR grants and raise both angel capital and venture capital.
Allstate Consultants LLC
Prototyping and all lab work is currently taking place at the testing facilities of Allstate Consultants, LLC in Columbia, Missouri.
Fr. Tolton Catholic High School
Fr. Tolton's campus, located in Columbia, Missouri, is the location of our first test site. (Please note that this is private property and can only be visited with permission.)