City of Austin – Keeping Trash off 6th Street
This time of the year brings more than rain and wildflowers to Texas; it’s also the beginning of festival season. One of the largest music and film festivals in the nation occurs every year in our state’s capital. South by Southwest (SXSW) brings a plethora of creative content and new ideas for the music, technology, and film industries. In 2014, SXSW saw roughly 400,000 people attend official festival events. When any City sees such a dramatic increase in visitors it’s going to have to deal with the trash and garbage that inevitably comes along with them. Not only do the people leave trash, but vehicle traffic increases the hydrocarbon pollutants on the street, which ends up in the streams after a rain event.
In 2012 the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department (WPD) and CH2M HILL developed a pilot program to evaluate manufactured treatment devices (MTD) for inlet protection to help deal with these problems. The WPD already had installed various MTDs for the purpose of inline water quality treatment in the downtown area near 6th Street, but they weren’t seeing the hoped for results.
Over a period of 6 months, CH2M HILL conducted an analysis on a wide variety of inlet treatment devices and recommended to the WPD that they choose Suntree’s Curb Inlet Skimmer Basket (CISB).. Suntree’s CISB uses a shelf system inside the curb inlet box to catch and direct flows to a skimmer basket with screened openings to catch trash, debris, and sediment. These devices aren’t just highly efficient at preventing trash from reaching the storm drain, but they were found to be easier to maintain. The basket is located directly under the inlet box’s manhole cover so that it can be removed for maintenance and access to the inlet. No longer do maintenance crews have to start early in the morning to make sure there are no cars blocking inlets that need cleaning, they can simply remove the manhole and access the baskets.
In the initial trial, seven of these devices were installed in the lower Shoal and Waller Creek districts, located on 6th Street. The purpose of the study was to determine the cost effectiveness ($/pound removed) and cost of maintenance (labor hours/inlet) of the CISBs compared to devices currently installed. During the pilot study period, the city’s Field Operations group maintained these devices approximately every 6 weeks over a course of a year.
Since the baskets capture more trash and take less time to clean out, maintenance costs were reduced by a third. It didn’t take long for the WPD to realize the cost savings potential of this system, which resulted in the expansion of inlets retrofitted with CISBs. Austin isn’t the only city facing this type of stormwater issue, other cities in Texas like Corpus Christi, Houston, and Dallas are following suit. They realize it’s much more effective to clean out trash at the source and not the river or bayou.
Currently, Construction EcoServices has installed 18 CISBs in the historic district of Austin and will increase that number in the near future. Due to the age of the stormwater system and outdated MTDs, challenges arose. The flexibility of this product allows for customized designs to retrofit any type of inlet, whether the inlet is 100 years old or 1 year old. Construction EcoServices’ expertise combined with superior stormwater quality products provides our clients with solutions for the present and the future.