Prairie Line Trail Equipped with Storm Water Bio-Filtration System

Early in the development of the Prairie Line Trail, “We said that we would like to get a series of rain gardens on the trail as we started to design. We had this vision that this is a perfect way of bringing water down through the campus and so we thought as an amenity, if we had a series of rain gardens, it would be kind of a neat thing to show, and for students to use, maybe for water testing for Environmental Science; things like that,” Director of Physical Planning and Sustainability Milt Tremblay said.

“So, we started talking to the Environmental Science Group from the city and we applied for a Department of Ecology grant,” Tremblay remarks.

With UWT’s support, the City of Tacoma applied for a 1.5 million dollar grant to install a storm water bio-filtration cell, which takes 48 acres off of the hilltop above UWT of untreated water and filters it through the UWT’s water fields and channels the filtered water down to the Foss waterfront.

Tremblay hopes that students will be able to access the filtration system for learning and improving current technology in environmental studies. The original concept was to have two filtration systems: one for experimental programs that would be used as a curriculum-based learning tool that students would control, where they could use different types of filtration materials such as walnut shells or other eco-friendly materials in order to study the different effects the materials might have in producing clean water.

Tremblay said there just wasn’t enough money to engineer and build more filtration pools and hopes the main filtration system with current proven technology will be accessible by students in the future.

While attending a Friends Of The Prairie Line Trail meeting, Elliott Barnett, an Associate Planner with the City of Tacoma, very eloquently expressed the idea of having the filtration system on the trail. “There is a great poetry to the idea of this. The first cut through the forest is now becoming this sort of bull mark for keeping the contaminants from going down to the Puget Sound.” Barnett went on about the trail’s new filtration system: “This really has got a nice line of defense for the Puget Sound.”

State-designated Innovative Partnership Zone (IPZ) is the UWT’s Clean Water Innovation Laboratory and is charged with protecting and promoting water resources and provides the equipment for testing new technologies in water purification in developing a clean water economy. IPZ along with its partners the City of Tacoma and the UWT received a grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to construct a Clean Water Innovative Development and Technology Transfer Lab on the UWT campus.

This is a collaboration of research; education and local government leaders are designed to accelerate development of globally competitive, research-based urban clean water cluster in Tacoma-Pierce County. The Center for Urban Waters is one of these partners in the development of these types of filtration systems on the Prairie Line Trail. “This is all coming together and it is pretty exciting when you think of everything. It doesn’t happen without us being an urban-serving campus. It doesn’t happen without the environmental services folks being willing to work with us and even the city being willing to say we’ll work with you on these projects,” Tremblay said talking about the new storm water bio filtration system that is now apart of the Prairie Line Trail.

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