EPA’s New Parking Lot Explores Environmentally Friendly Pavements
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.