Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-06-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $3,500 Total Non-Federal Funds: $6,402
Principal Investigators: Paul Imhoff, Daniel Cha, Pei Chiu
Abstract: A major cause for decreased water quality in Delaware is nutrient loading of natural waters. This comes in part from fertilizer and animal manures from the farms of Delaware, but also from urban sources such as road runoff and atmospheric deposition. This pollution is only expected to increase with the rising population, which is alarming due to the negative environmental implication of nutrient loading, including eutrophication, which could destroy habitats causing a loss in economic productivity. To combat this, the Delaware Department of Transportation is required to comply with Total Maximum Daily Load regulations. These regulations set the bar for how much of any pollutant, including nutrients, can be in surface water and still maintain water quality standards. While necessary, adhering to these standards will be quite costly, so any new technology might be helpful in reducing the financial burden on taxpayers. According to recent experiments biochar has the ability to absorb a significant amount of ammonium and increase water retention in the unsaturated zone, which in turn will increase nitrogen uptake in plants and conversion of ammonium to nitrogen gas. This means that biochar has the potential to improve water quality when added to a bioinfiltration facility. Further research is needed to understand, modify and improve the performance of biochar, particularly in in engineered bioretention systems that are often used to treat stormwater runoff from roadways. The primary objective of this research is to evaluate several different biochars on their ability to absorb organic nitrogen and ammonium. Fulfilling this objective will help us to understand the fate of nitrogen compounds in a bioinfiltration medium amended with biochar.