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Stormwater - Harnessing the power of peat

Two men stand outdoors in front of a business sign
September 8, 2016

Peat – the decayed vegetation that forms over hundreds of years in cold, wet climates – has unique and beneficial characteristics. Its complex material make-up naturally bonds with many heavy metals. American Peat Technology (APT) in Aitkin, Minn., wanted to take advantage of that natural ability for marketable products, like a water filtering media. They figured out how to granulize the peat to make it more effective as a filter. But much more chemistry was needed to expand the media into new remediation arenas.

This is what started a partnership between NRRI Chemist Igor Kolomitsyn and APT in 2009. Their goal was to figure out how to further chemically alter the surface of granulized peat to increase its adsorption properties for things like cadmium, zinc, cobalt and copper. The result was the company’s line of APTsorb products and now the company is finding new ways to deploy the products for stormwater issues.

For large-scale filtering of runoff from parking lots, an underground vault is positioned to catch and filter out trash, then two levels of APTsorb II filters out the heavy metals before the water moves to a nearby wetland.

The same media is also deployed in a long, flexible tube that can be laid along roadsides to collect polluted stormwater off highways and byways. And finally, they’ve developed a downspout filter for rain runoff from galvanized roofs which, over time, shed zinc. Zinc is a particular problem in the Pacific Northwest because it affects native salmon when introduced to waterways.

The new products have allowed APT to expand and today the company employs about 33 people.

“We need Igor to help us understand the chemistry,” said Peggy Jones, APT lab and marketing manager. “Every water situation that comes to us is different, and he can look at the data and explain what’s happening and how to use our products to fix it.”