Installation of innovative stormwater treatment system underway at Asylum Lake

Contact: Paula M. Davis

Researchers have developed a unique way to remove contamination from road salt runoff in Asylum Lake.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Work has begun on a project employing a two-pronged approach to improving the water quality of Asylum Lake. The core of this project involves installing a stormwater treatment device that uses technology and natural processes to prevent phosphorus, sediment and other pollutants from being released into the lake from untreated urban stormwater.

A second element includes a never-before-tried technique designed to safeguard the lake from contamination caused by road salt runoff. Western Michigan University researchers and Kieser & Associates, an environmental consulting firm, are engaged in this aspect of the project.

Together these interventions form the Asylum Lake Stormwater Treatment System, with the aim of providing comprehensive protection for this body of water situated in Western’s 274-acre Asylum Lake Preserve.

The $775,000 project is funded by a $550,000 grant from the state of Michigan allocated to the Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council, a group that in partnership with Western helps manage the preserve. The remaining $225,000 required for this project is funded by the council through a Kalamazoo Foundation endowment restricted for the benefit of the preserve. Work to install the system began in September and is projected to be complete in early November.

“This innovative stormwater treatment system, generously funded by the state of Michigan, exemplifies Western’s and the council’s dedication to preserving the health of this important body of water,” says Pete Strazdas, chair of the Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council.

"We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Rep. Julie Rogers for her instrumental role in securing this funding, which will not only address phosphorus and road salt pollution but also pave the way for critical water quality research. We also appreciate the city of Kalamazoo for its partnership in this effort embodying both stewardship of the natural environment and our community."

Two-fold approach to protection

Located just south of Stadium Drive and east of Drake Road, Asylum Lake is part of the Arcadia Creek-Portage Creek Watershed and the broader Kalamazoo River Watershed. Monitoring over many years has revealed the impact and presence of phosphorus and salt from nearby roadways.

The Asylum Lake Stormwater Treatment System is designed to help protect and enhance the lake’s health.

Using a mechanical treatment device that is the core of the system and the more conventional approach to addressing stormwater discharge, the treatment process begins with diverting stormwater from existing storm sewer infrastructure along Drake Road. The city of Kalamazoo has committed to biannual clean-outs of this device.

Subsequently, stormwater will flow into a collection pond and infiltration trench, traversing 800 feet of Asylum Lake's northwest shoreline. This natural filtration process will ensure the removal of almost all phosphorus and sediment from stormwater, offering an economically viable and immediately effective solution to nutrient-related concerns. This aspect of the treatment system, however, does not prevent chloride contamination caused by road salt runoff, a pervasive issue affecting freshwater ecosystems across the nation and world.

The second facet of the system introduces a novel method for capturing chlorides. To date, this unique technique has only been validated in a controlled testing environment.

"Our results from ongoing laboratory experiments, in concert with our project partner, are encouraging,” says Dr. Matt Reeves, associate professor of geological and environmental sciences at WMU. He is researching the technique in partnership with Mark Kieser of Kieser & Associates, a scientific research and environmental consulting firm in Kalamazoo.

Laboratory testing conducted thus far “suggests that properly designed stormwater treatment systems may be able to remove chloride originating from road salt,” Reeves says.

The researchers will be closely monitoring its performance in salt catchment in the real-world environment of Asylum Lake. The potential to mitigate chlorides could revolutionize not only this lake’s health but also serve as a “game changer” more broadly for bodies of water impacted by road salt runoff.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.