Community-based soil quality assessment as a tool for designing an urban green infrastructure network to manage runoff

EPA Grant Number: SU835494
Title: Community-based soil quality assessment as a tool for designing an urban green infrastructure network to manage runoff
Investigators: Montgomery, James , Klimas, Christie A.
Current Investigators: Montgomery, James , Klimas, Christie A. , Williams, Allison , Kennedy, Ann , DeKnock, Christian , Webb, Ellen , Costenbader, Jan , Arcus, Joseph , Vollrath, Katherine , Rico, Kathryn , Rodriguez, Yarency
Institution: Depaul University
Current Institution: Depaul University , Washington State University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Our proposed project centers on reducing erosion and minimizing the pollutant load of storm water runoff from degraded urban parcels in the city of Chicago via implementation of green infrastructure (GI) projects. We will conduct field and laboratory soil quality analyses to assess the suitability of candidate sites for GI project implementation. Results from these analyses will be used to determine the appropriate type of GI that minimizes surface storm water runoff and pollutant loadings while maximizing the opportutunity for community engagement. This project will be implemented via a partnership between the P3 Team and high school interns (Green Teens) and staff from the Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC), located in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood in Chicago, a low-income African-American community.


Storm water runoff from urban areas is often laden with heavy metals, nutrients and sediment detached from areas of exposed soils. Excessive runoff is expensive to treat at wastewater treatment plants. In heavily urbanized areas, parcel-scale GI (e.g. rain gardens, bioswales, etc) may be the most practical approach for reducing contaminated runoff, providing ecosystem services and creating community open spaces. GI is often most critical in low income areas as it can improve urban water quality, reduce urban air pollution, improve public health, and enhance urban aesthetics and safety. Our project applies the soil quality assessment framework to assist in the design of GI projects for parcels the Great Grand Crossing community. This project also addresses STEM education goals by partnering college science students with local high school students. Green Teens and the P3 Team will assess soil quality in candidate parcels in the Greater Grand Crossing community to evaluate their suitability for GI project implementation.

Expected Results:

Our project will contribute to closing the knowledge gap of GI impacts on the water cycle by quantifying the GI impacts on runoff and infiltration at the parcel scale, characterizing the mechanisms responsible for removal of heavy metals, and defining the impacts of GI on nutrient cycles. Based on the rigorous principles undergirding the soil quality assessment framework, data obtained from field and laboratory soil quality assessment will be used to design a GIS map of proposed GI projects (i.e. rain gardens, bioswales, etc.) for reducing urban storm water runoff in Greater Grand Crossing. Our GIS map will include quantification of ecosystem services provided by newly created green spaces (InVEST, Natural Capital Project).

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

participatory research, STEM education, sustainability

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report