A Natural Winner

March 20, 2013 in Environment

Just inside the front entrance to Boeing’s Santa Susana location in Southern California is a small plot of land that has recently brought the company big accolades for handling stormwater at this former rocket engine test and energy research facility for the U.S. government.

The area, which sits amidst sandstone bluffs and oak woodlands, measures 3,200 square feet — or roughly the space for 30 minivans to park on it. It’s a natural area that features thousands of California native plants such as sagebrush, fuchsia and golden yarrow. There are covered benches to give visitors to the 2,850 acre Santa Susana site — which Boeing plans to preserve as open space parkland — a shaded area to rest.

The spot may look like a serene seating area, but it’s actually part of Boeing’s aggressive stormwater management strategy for Santa Susana. It’s a biofilter, which uses natural processes to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff — much like a swimming pool filter traps dirt and debris.

The biofilter is one way Boeing is reducing stormwater runoff from the site. Boeing developed the system in conjunction with its Surface Water Expert Panel, a committee of independent professionals who provide technical expertise and guidance to help Boeing achieve water compliance standards at Santa Susana. The site faces some of the nation’s most stringent limits for stormwater runoff as regulators seek to clean Los Angeles area waterways.

The California Stormwater Quality Association recently presented Boeing and the expert panel with one of its four statewide awards, recognizing the Santa Susana biofilter as a creative solution for improving stormwater quality in California. It also demonstrates Boeing’s commitment to protecting human health and the environment in the communities where the company has a presence.

“This award validates the hard work of a dynamic team that developed an innovative natural stormwater solution that is effective, educational, beautiful and replicable,” said Paul Costa, Boeing’s Environmental Operations and Compliance Manager at Santa Susana.

As the video above shows, Boeing collaborated with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Pollinator Partnership and the Wildlife Habitat Council to design the biofilter as part wildlife habitat, part educational tool. Above ground, over 2,000 native plants prevent water pollution while attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The biofilter will support STEM-related educational activities for L.A.-area schools and universities, including High Tech High School and USC.

Below ground, the biofilter is a hard-working system that captures stormwater from a nearby parking lot and treats it using natural physical, chemical and biological processes — releasing cleaner water back into the watershed. After a cistern traps large sediment and debris, the water is pumped to a basin which captures smaller silt particles. The water is then treated as it percolates downward through the biofilter, which consists of plants and specially designed media that act as scrubbers to further clean the remaining runoff.

“The Santa Susana biofilter represents Boeing’s commitment to responsible environmental leadership in Ventura County and beyond,” said Costa.