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Published on October 28th, 2009 | by Nick Chambers

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EPA's New Parking Lot Explores Environmentally Friendly Pavements

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Without pavement and parking lots we would still be traveling cross-country in Conestoga wagons on 6-inch deep ruts and be breathing lungfulls of dust every time a vehicle drove by at the Kwik-E-Mart. Needless to say, pavement is one of the many things that makes modern life possible.

But, like everything else in our modern life, the more advanced we get in our ability to collect and analyze data, the more we realize that the good stuff always seems to have its awful consequences too. It’s the same story with pavement.

From creating hazardously strong storm surge runoff, to delivering pollutants directly to groundwater and streams, to preventing the natural recharge of groundwater, pavement sure has its laundry list of consequences. To help in understanding the mechanisms that cause all these downsides—and perhaps develop new materials and methods to fix them—the US Environmental Protection Agency has replaced a 43,000 square foot section of one of its parking lots at its Edison, NJ, facility with three types of new permeable pavements and rain gardens.

“Runoff from parking lots and driveways is a significant source of water pollution in the United States and puts undo stress on our water infrastructure, especially in densely-populated urban areas,” said EPA Acting Region 2 Administrator George Pavlou. “By evaluating different designs and materials, this study will help us develop strategies to lessen the environmental impacts of parking lots across the country and make our communities more sustainable.”

The project is being looked at as a long term study. Over the next decade, EPA will evaluate the three pavement types and rain gardens to specifically quantify how they can reduce pollutants and allow rainfall and snowmelt to filter to groundwater in a semi-natural way. The parking lot will continue to be used by employees and visitors as normal during the entire study.

Certainly permeable pavements and rain gardens have been studied before and are being implemented by local and state governments all over the US right now. But EPA felt that there was no coordinated effort to really understand what benefits they could provide.

Source: EurekAlert!

Image Credit: faceless b‘s Flickr photostream. Used under a Creative Commons License.


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About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.



  • sheckyvegas

    Now this is something I would not have thought about! Way to go, EPA!

  • sheckyvegas

    Now this is something I would not have thought about! Way to go, EPA!

  • Marc

    If it is permeable it sounds like pollutants will be going directly into the ground water, I would like to know more.

  • Marc

    If it is permeable it sounds like pollutants will be going directly into the ground water, I would like to know more.

  • Todd

    We’ve looked into this, but towns are reluctant to accept roads with permeable pavements without knowing the long term maint costs.

    The most impressive Stormwater BMP now is the SBZ, (Google Stormwater Buffer Zone) which are catch basins and catch basin retrofits which can trap and filter sediment much more effectively and less expensively than anything we’ve used.

    Money is better spent on optimizing existing catch basin infrastructure than make pavement a silt trap, though permeable pavements have some other great features.

  • Todd

    We’ve looked into this, but towns are reluctant to accept roads with permeable pavements without knowing the long term maint costs.

    The most impressive Stormwater BMP now is the SBZ, (Google Stormwater Buffer Zone) which are catch basins and catch basin retrofits which can trap and filter sediment much more effectively and less expensively than anything we’ve used.

    Money is better spent on optimizing existing catch basin infrastructure than make pavement a silt trap, though permeable pavements have some other great features.

  • Mike C

    You can find out more about permeable pavement by going to ICPI.com. This is not new technology and studies show that these systems significantly reduce pollutants. The bacteria in the soils actually digest mitrogen, phophorus, oils and heavy metals are filtered out prior to infiltration into the aquifer. Studies can be found at University of Central Florida, North Carolina State University, Washington State University. Pervious pavements are considered by the US EPA as a Low Impact Development Best Management Practice. The UK EPA rates these systems the highest in controlling runoff and pollution. The US is behind the curve considering the volume of installations of these systems throughout the world, including Germany, Europe, UK, Asia and Australia amoungst other enviromentally forward thinking countries.

  • Mike C

    You can find out more about permeable pavement by going to ICPI.com. This is not new technology and studies show that these systems significantly reduce pollutants. The bacteria in the soils actually digest mitrogen, phophorus, oils and heavy metals are filtered out prior to infiltration into the aquifer. Studies can be found at University of Central Florida, North Carolina State University, Washington State University. Pervious pavements are considered by the US EPA as a Low Impact Development Best Management Practice. The UK EPA rates these systems the highest in controlling runoff and pollution. The US is behind the curve considering the volume of installations of these systems throughout the world, including Germany, Europe, UK, Asia and Australia amoungst other enviromentally forward thinking countries.

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