Permeable surface paves the way to cleaner water in Washington

The future of environmental green infrastructure is being built by Boeing, a key community partner that also is helping to prepare the next generation of environmental scientists.

April 26, 2019 in Our Environment

A water truck demonstrates how rainwater instantly drains on the Boeing-innovated pervious surface, thereby filtering pollutants before they enter the Puget Sound. Boeing recently unveiled its permeable pavement pilot at the iDEA School in Tacoma.

Alan Martz

The connection between preserving the natural beauty of waterways, protecting the wildlife that depend on it, and how the next generation of environmental scientists can lead the way was on display at the unveiling of a permeable pavement pilot project at the iDEA school in Tacoma, Wash. this month.

Boeing is a key community partner in innovating such solutions to improve water quality. The company’s leadership in stormwater management is not only essential for manufacturing operations, which require conformity to standards and permits from local governments, but benefits the community. Here’s how this solution works:

When rain falls on traditional pavement, all the pollutants – oils from cars, pet waste, pesticides, lawn fertilizer and myriad other toxins – pool. They then drain into nearby streams, rivers and estuaries creating stormwater that kills wildlife and endangers waterways.

With improved pavement, the rainwater drains immediately into the environmentally-engineered surface. It acts as a filter that traps pollutants before they can damage wildlife and waterways.

“Our permeable pavement pilot is a four-year public-private partnership that demonstrates the magic that happens when we connect the community for the benefit of the environment,” said Lori Blair, Boeing engineer and policy analyst for Environment, Health and Safety.

The iDEA School, with a mission to partner with community resources to change public education, prepares a new generation of environmental scientists through STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Boeing helped create a curriculum for the school in which students learn about stormwater, including how to design and build rain gardens that filter pollutants.

Pete George, a Boeing Associate Technical Fellow and BCA Product Development expert, provided technical consulting during the early stages of the project.

Ken Fischer, a Boeing Associate Technical Fellow and member of the Boeing Design for Environment team within BCA Product Development, worked on the project with Washington State University and the Washington Stormwater Center. The city of Tacoma received a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology to test different additives. The city brought Kevlar and recycled asphalt shingles to the IDEA school project and Boeing contributed excess cured carbon fiber composite from 787 Dreamliner and 777X wings.

“Sharing our technological knowledge for a project that lends itself to developing STEM education and preserving the natural beauty of the Puget Sound is incredibly satisfying,” said Fischer, who is also part of the ecoDemonstrator group.

By Monica Zimmer