Camosun's applied research project leads to environmental protection

environmental-protectionPutting meaning to complex technology and science topics can be challenging, but Camosun College's most recent NSERC-funded research project leads to results everyone can appreciate—the protection of fish habitat and sensitive ecosystems.

In a unique collaboration Royal Roads University, Saanich-based Petro Barrier Systems Inc. (PBS) and Camosun's Centre for Applied Research and Innovation(CARI) launched a pilot project at RRU February 5, demonstrating a novel hydrocarbon capture and remote monitoring system.

Dubbed "Brainy Drains" by RRU, the drain system captures and immobilizes tiny amounts of hydrocarbons—oil, gasoline and solvents—that wash off roadways and parking lots, preventing them from entering storm water systems and polluting waterways and estuaries.

The oil sensor and wireless communication system developed by Camosun researchers Will Spaulding and Imtehaze Heerah is an important adjunct to the drain protection system, alerting PBS if the drain needs servicing.

"We developed the petro barrier system some time ago, but the need for manual inspections of the drains was a problem," explained Mike Ansley, VP for PBS and an alumnus of RRU. The remote monitoring and alarm system provided by Camosun means PBS can monitor many drains simultaneously, and respond quickly when a filter is clogged with captured oil or other debris.

PBS estimates that roadway run-off annually deposits 80 million gallons of oily residue into our water systems. That's equivalent to 10 Exxon Valdez oil spills each year.

"This is an incredibly important project that has the potential to prevent pollutants from spoiling our surrounding waterways and sensitive estuaries," says Dr. Tim Walzak, Director of CARI at Camosun. "The research work we do is practical, local and extremely gratifying." During the 1.5-year pilot phase of the Brainy Drains, RRU will install and monitor eight barrier systems, and Camosun will conduct controlled laboratory testing to challenge the systems under a variety of real-world scenarios that mimic severe weather events.