Sustain-A-Drain: A Novel Indicative Hydrocarbon Filtration System

EPA Grant Number: SU836142
Title: Sustain-A-Drain: A Novel Indicative Hydrocarbon Filtration System
Investigators: Tam, Kawai
Institution: University of California - Riverside
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Water


Filtration system products for storm drains exist to capture hazardous hydrocarbon oils and heavy metals to prevent environmental contamination. Although these products aid in the containment of hazardous wastes, they are not reusable and thus increase landfill waste when the filter’s lifetime is complete. Systems with no saturation indicators have uncertainty associated with the treatment capacity of the filter and risk leaking hazardous wastes. The objective of the team, Sustain-a-Drain, is to design and build a reusable storm drain filter insert system with an indicator to facilitate maintenance of storm drains and protect waterways.


Based on preliminary testing of a full-scale unit at the University of California, Riverside, the functionality of the filtration system consists of a water diverter, sediment catcher, filter and indicator. The novel and innovative aspect of our system is the indicator. The indicator is designed to allow sediment-laden water to flow through the indicator where a metal mesh directly adjacent to the material can capture oil contaminants. The oil migrates to another compartment where saturation of an oil-absorbing polymer transitions from a powder to an amorphous gel to function as an indicator. Sustain-a-Drain has conducted successful experiments on prototypes that capture hazardous hydrocarbons, and provide indication of oil saturation. The results of this design will show an effective method to indicate proper maintenance times for a storm drain protection system.

Expected Results:

This system successfully captures oil and other large sediments with the potential of adsorbing heavy metals. The indicator is calibrated to the Sustain-a-Drain filter system and activates at intermediate and full saturation of the filter insert. Upon full saturation of the filter system, the unit can be removed and cleaned with a biodegradable detergent. The extracted contaminants will be treated with flora capable of treating oil and heavy metals. This approach is sustainable and will ensure that hazardous materials extracted do not become a water pollution problem when filters are cleaned. The waste removed from the filter will then be treated in a bioremediation process using the fern Alpine Penny Cress Thlaspi and Fungal Mycelia to further remove hydrocarbons and heavy metals. The concentrations of the contaminants in solution will be analyzed to determine the degradation efficiency of the plants. Water that is free from contaminants can be potentially reused for on-site industry such as Fleet Services in UC Riverside, where water consumption is primarily used for cleaning vehicles.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 5 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Sustainability, cost-effective analysis, environmentally-friendly, water conservation, ecological protection, maintenance

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report