StormCon ’05

April 3, 2000

StormCon ’05 achieved several goals, all of which signified that StormCon has arrived as the power center of the national nonpoint-source water pollution prevention dialog. Movers and shakers from all sides of stormwater issues have discovered that StormCon is the place to get perspective on what’s working throughout the country, what could be done better, and what new technologies and products hold the most promise for raising the bar.

From people like Charles Poat, AIA, LEED AP, of Walbridge Aldinger, who managed the design and engineering development of the award-winning Ford Rouge Center industrial redevelopment in Dearborn, MI; to stormwater managers from 48 states, including those from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, DeKalb County, GA, El Paso County, CO, Brevard City and Charlotte, NC, San Francisco, CA, Phoenix, AZ, and Tacoma, WA; to executives from Wal-Mart, KB Home, Target Corp., and Lennar Homes Inc.; to Steve Fleischli, the executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance; to several representatives from the federal EPA, everyone who is instrumental in shaping the industry attended the conference this year.

This is exactly what StormCon hoped. By the age of four, StormCon has achieved what few industry conferences ever do: It has established itself as a crossroads of expertise, industry, and the forces that drive the market. But at StormCon those forces–people, really–don’t just meet and make presentations; they also sit down together, have lunch, exchange their best ideas, and chart where the industry is going. StormCon is a civilized and congenial conference. Maybe this is why so much happens in such a concentrated period of time at the pace of an elegant think-tank retreat.

As noted, there wasn’t just one highlight this year, but a series of landmark events:

Kicked off by Daniel Waldman, Forester Communications’ publisher and president, the conference featured a riveting keynote address on the state of our nation’s oceans by Dr. John Ogden, who described the stormwater industry as one of just a few critical variables that can positively impact national ocean health. A marine biologist and ocean policymaker who is working on a comprehensive ocean management policy known as the Big Ocean Bill, Ogden grouped stormwater management with global climate change and fisheries management, in terms of the factors that most affect ocean water quality. He urged the stormwater industry to become involved in shaping and supporting the Big Ocean Bill, which is expected to be presented to congress in the coming years as the nation’s first comprehensive ocean management plan. AbTech’s Glenn Rink, who sponsored the opening keynote address and the opening reception, and who has enriched StormCon with his many gifts and talents, may be the sort to spearhead a stormwater committee on the Big Ocean Bill.

This year marked EPA officials’ first presentation at StormCon, and the benefits immediately emerged. Nikos Singelis, the EPA’s senior analyst for municipal and construction stormwater, announced at the beginning of his workshop that Gordon England’s presentation the day before had given him “a revelation” about the potential advantages of the US Geological Survey’s suspended-sediment concentration pollution measurement as an alternative to the standard total suspended solids measurement. In turn, Singelis offered many revelations for his near-capacity workshop audience, introducing new tools for meeting National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements that the EPA is getting ready to roll out, and providing updates on key NPDES-related issues. After his presentation, about 50 people offered their business cards to him, some volunteering to review new instructional tools, others looking for information, and others solicited by Singelis for consultation on stormwater program development.

Exciting research work presented by Professor John Sansalone and Jia Ma led toward important refinements to current measurement standards. Sansalone presented a formulation for quantifying highway pollution runoff, taking into consideration the nature of phosphorus toxicity at different concentrations and particle sizes.

According to John Moll of CrystalStream Technologies, who attended the session, “Their work suggests that the concentration and mass is predictable based on particle size. This indicates that inexpensive testing for particle size distribution may allow accurate prediction of pollutants like total phosphorus. It is about time someone investigated pollutant distribution by particle size, rather than just assuming that the smaller particles in first flush flows are the only important pollutant transporters.”

Two other presentations, given by Gordon England and Moll, demonstrated the importance of large particle sizes in controlling pollution. England went so far as to call the first flush phenomenon a myth, and Moll presented data from thousands of field measurements that supported England’s assertions. The implications of their work may bring principles that many regulators rely upon into question–for example, the importance of measuring tiny particles with equipment that cannot measure larger particles, and using analysis protocols that are proven to be inaccurate.

Sansalone and Ma’s, England’s, and Moll’s work all have implications for federal standards. Even with strict regulations in place, measuring only tiny particles and focusing only on concentration instead of on mass causes us to miss the bulk of pollutants that are easy to intercept. This work is a major step toward better best management practice solutions by better defining the problems to be solved.

In addition, vendors launched new industry developments at StormCon. The birth of Stormwater 360, the new company resulting from Contech’s acquisition of Stormwater Management and Vortechnics, was announced and feted. Other exciting developments in the exhibit hall drew a constant stream of people: Cultec announced its new stormwater detention/retention chamber, the Recharger 150, during the conference. A record 183 exhibitors were busy with potential buyers up until the moment it was time to go home. The espresso cart, dispensing complimentary drinks as part of the Cyber Café, was a high-traffic area every minute of the day.

Finally, StormCon ’05’s foreign attendance increased by two and a half times over last year. Attendees came from Nigeria, Malaysia, Korea, New Zealand, Venezuela, Israel, Mexico, and Europe. This can mean only one thing: If you haven’t attended StormCon yet, hurry up and start appreciating it now and avoid the rush later.

What can we expect from StormCon ’06 in Denver, CO? More high-level networking that occurred this year. New programs that will focus on regional stormwater issues, provide more in-depth NPDES program development expertise, and extend the highly successful EPA-led workshop. A larger exhibition hall with even more exhibitors than in 2005. And, with the high-level people StormCon attracts, possibly the formation of a stormwater-industry Big Ocean Bill working group.       

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