Infiltronics Environmental was founded in 2014 by Dr. Kathleen Trauth to help land developers more cost effectively meet stormwater runoff regulations, while at the same time dramatically improving soil and water quality in and around their sites. The patent for this innovative new system was issued to Dr. Trauth in 2016. In the summer of 2017 Infiltronics Environmental began participating in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program to conduct extensive customer discovery. We have conducted 191 interviews 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.
The core technology Infiltronics Environmental is working to develop is a stormwater redistribution and infiltration device that will function as a Best Management Practice (BMP). The device works by taking stormwater that has concentrated on something like a parking lot 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 aggregate mix moves water at a rate to maximize infiltration vertically and horizontally before moving the water longitudinally (3-D flow) along the length of the installation.
We set out on this project needing to learn more about how the device would work, who would want to use it, and why. We addressed the technical unknowns by first running lab experiments. During these experiments we were able to produce 3-D flow and continuous flow from segment to segment. This led to us pursuing field testing. To learn more about who would want to use the device and why, we conducted 191 interviews with professionals in the stormwater ecosystem. In these interviews several trends came to light, specifically a lack of satisfaction with the current stormwater management methods.
It is true that clay does not move water as quickly as other soil types, 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 three main areas. First, as a part of a treatment train in new and redevelopment projects to help reduce the size of required ponds by utilizing our device under green space such as landscaping and lawns. Second, in special cases such as reducing flow into combined sewer systems from places like home gutters and to meet special requirements such as keeping a portion of stormwater onsite. Third, for erosion mitigation and prevention on sites that do not require additional stormwater management but are dealing with erosion issues from parking lots, drain pipes, other sources of concentrated water, and severe overland flow.
This product will be used by consulting civil engineers and specially trained landscapers. The engineers will use this technology in development projects, redevelopment projects, and erosion mitigation projects. 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. The landscapers will also use this product for projects dealing with erosion mitigation, but on a smaller scale than the engineers, such as individual homes.
To quantifiably see how the system in our first test site is functioning we installed a collection of soil moisture sensors around the installation. With these sensors we can see water after a storm move through our system and out in a "plume" around the units. The video below displays this.
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 trench in the pipe helps to move the water quickly, but also greatly reduces the possible infiltration in the french drain.
We have an agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks to do two installations of our device in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. We are also continuing to collect and analyze data from our first installation and are non-resident clients of the Missouri Innovation Center and members of the REDI Innovation HUB.
The NSF I-Corps program is designed to educate university researchers about customers and product-market fit in an effort to commercialize these research-based products.
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.)