Park Place Stormwater Facility Chapter 2: Research and Development

As we learned in Chapter 1, the City of Bellingham has spent several years striving to improve water quality in Lake Whatcom by reducing phosphorus loading in accordance with the Lake Whatcom Watershed Total Phosphorus and Bacteria (TMDL) plan. To achieve this goal in the near term, the City authorized the redevelopment of the Park Place Stormwater Facility. This cost-effective project aims to maximize phosphorus removal to create cleaner, safer stormwater runoff. To maximize the potential of the Park Place site, the City tasked Herrera with developing a novel high performance stormwater treatment media optimized for phosphorus removal.

With teaching and learning at the core of Herrera’s values, the firm seeks to collaborate with universities to stay on the cutting edge and help launch the careers of future industry leaders.

For this project, Herrera teamed with Joan Pickens of Western Washington University (WWU) to conduct column experiments in a newly refitted laboratory on campus, evaluating over 14 different media components and 10 different media blends. As an undergraduate student at WWU, Nick Bartish played a pivotal role in completing these early studies before becoming a full-time scientist at Herrera in the following years.

The team determined the most effective media blend by evaluating several criteria including leaching, pollutant retention, hydraulic performance, sustainability, and cost. After experimenting with several media blends, the team identified the optimal combination of components for both hydraulics and phosphorus removal, naming the new technology the Phosphorus-Optimized Stormwater Treatment (POST) system. With the new media blend in place, Herrera worked with the City to design a stormwater treatment facility on the park place site for the new technology. 

To maximize flexibility and allow the use of the POST system across the Lake Whatcom basin, the City opted to get the new technology approved through the Washington State Department of Ecology’s TAPE verification program. Herrera assisted the City in this initiative, designing and testing a POST installation in the Silver Beach neighborhood on the north shores of Lake Whatcom. After 18 months of pilot scale field testing, the POST system achieved approval from Ecology for phosphorus and sediment removal and was ready for its debut in the Park Place Regional Treatment Facility. Tune in next week to learn about the design and construction of the Facility in Chapter 3!

For more information on this project, please contact Dylan Ahearn, PhD.