Brainy Drains Installed at Royal Roads

February 1, 2013
By: 
Susan Down
Petro Barrier Systems vice president Mike Ansley

Royal Roads will host a pilot project to test a new wireless drain monitoring system aimed at protecting the environment from pollutants that get washed into storm drains. Victoria-based Petro Barrier Systems Inc. (PBS) designed and manufactured the drain filters and Camosun College researchers developed the wireless system. 

PBS will install the first of eight filters in a parking lot on campus beginning Feb.5.  The data generated over the year-long project will directly benefit the university and will also add important context to a Capital Regional District water flow monitoring project (part of a larger harbour monitoring project) on Colwood Creek, a fish-bearing waterway on campus.

The launch of the innovative project is the successful result of cooperation between RRU and the other participants.

“The project is a clear example of the university’s support of community partnership with green businesses and other institutions,” said Nancy Wilkin, director of RRU’s office of sustainability.

Tim Walzak, Director of Camosun College’s Centre of Applied Research and Innovation, agrees with Wilkin. “Combining RRU’s environmental leadership with PBS’s progressive systems and Camosun’s research expertise makes this a win for all,” he said.

“Big spills make the news, but tons of little spills are happening right outside your door and we are all a part of it. People don’t really realize the magnitude of pollution that comes from storm drains alone,” said Mike Ansley, a RRU alumnus who is vice-president of marketing and communications for PBS. “What we are doing can help stop that.”

The filters installed at Royal Roads University are the first of a new generation, enhanced by a data monitoring system developed by Camosun College engineering researchers and faculty members Will Spaulding and Imtehaze Heerah. Dubbed the Storm Drain Alert System, the devices provide a “smart” filtration system which will allow the users to effectively monitor potentially toxic chemicals while gleaning additional information such as water flow levels and daily temperatures. Clients will get daily emails with data that will make it even easier for businesses to avoid costly cleanups and prevent damage to surrounding ecosystems.

The company (PBS) has been designing and manufacturing the filters for more than a decade for companies such as CN Rail, Ontario Power Generation and the Toronto Hydro Electric System. Campus Honda Victoria has been using the storm drain filters for several years to keep pollution out of nearby Cecilia Creek. The patented filters capture oil, chemicals and heavy metals through a chemical reaction that creates a gel to trap the substance from going any further while water continues to flow. In the event of a large spill, the gel seals over the drain entirely, preventing anything from passing through.