Photo: Yellow Finch Strategies
Water levels in the "smart" retention pond can be remote-controlled.
Climate, Sustainability and Energy
Technology is helping to keep nearby waterways cleaner.
As Category 4 Hurricane Ian approached in late September, a “smart” retention pond on S.R. 45 near Port Tampa Bay captured 175,000 cubic feet of the polluted flow before it hit Tampa Bay.
Technology in the pond continuously assesses its contents and rainfall forecasts to initiate an automatic release of partly filtered contents before a storm comes ashore. Operators can also remotely lower the water levels when a storm approaches. With Ian bearing down on the area, operators lowered the pond by nearly 4 feet. That created room to capture part of the deluge from Ian, preventing it from flooding the vicinity and pouring polluted stormwater unfiltered into Tampa Bay.
The Smart Pond is a project of the Florida Department of Transportation, Port Tampa Bay and National Stormwater Trust, a Maryland-based company also registered in Florida and Montana. National Stormwater equipped an existing FDOT stormwater pond near the port with OptiRTC brand sensors and app-controlled water-containment and water-release devices. A second conversion to Smart Pond tech was underway near the port in December. National Stormwater says more are planned for LeeVista Center in Orlando, JaxPort, Port Canaveral, Seascape resort in Walton County and at The Villages, where the ponds will capture stormwater for reuse in irrigating the retirement community’s golf courses.
Port Tampa Bay Environmental Director Chris Cooley says the technology succeeds both as a stormwater- control device during severe weather and routinely on sunny days when the ponds filter the water before releasing it. Nitrogen is a particularly toxic contaminant for the bay, fueling algae blooms and contributing to fish kills.
“The innovative Smart Pond technology will remove 44% more nitrogen than traditional stormwater treatment ponds, improving water quality in Tampa Bay,” Cooley says. “In addition to improving water quality, the actively managed pond will help control flooding and improve resiliency in our community.”
The Florida Recycling Partnership Foundation issued an Environmental Stewardship Award to National Stormwater Trust for its role in protecting Tampa Bay from stormwater during Hurricane Ian. The foundation is a coalition of businesses and associations, including the Florida Ports Council, the Florida Beverage Association, Pepsico, Waste Management and Cemex, a supplier of construction materials.