What’s Up Wednesdays – Post 9

Let’s hear from Emily Carambelas this week!

“The project I’m assigned to received funding in August so much of my time is dedicated to setting up five water quality monitoring sites. I spent the summer identifying the sites, making contact with the property owners, and gaining access since we don’t want to spend grant money on bail. Now, I’m in the process of designing the monitoring systems with the help of Weston Solutions, a VUSP partner, and ordering the equipment. After all the paperwork and phone calls I’ve completed, it was really exciting to receive my first package in the mail last week—a handheld flow meter that measure a stream’s velocity. If it rains tomorrow like it’s forecasted to, I’m definitely breaking it out for a test run!

I also recently took over as the Twitter coordinator for VUSP. I’m fairly new to environmental engineering so it’s been a great way to learn about companies and programs with similar initiatives as ours, as well as current trends in the field. On the flip side, I am enjoying the opportunity to share the work we do at VUSP, although it can be a challenge to accomplish it in only 140 characters. Be sure to check out our Twitter feed!”

Emily Carambelas joined VUSP in July 2016, after working for several years in museums and archives. She will graduate in May 2018 with a master’s in environmental engineering. She is working with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative funded by the William Penn Foundation; her advisor is Dr. Andrea Welker.

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What’s Up Wednesdays – Post 8

Let’s hear from Nora Schmidt this week!

I have been working for the past few months researching the sensors to install at a new site along I-95 in Northeast Philadelphia. We are only a few short days to weeks to installing our first pieces of monitoring equipment in 4 different rain gardens stretching two city blocks along the highway. The main goal of this grant is to monitor and assess the Stormwater Management Practices (SMPs) implemented in this section of the I-95 construction and to advise, through lessons learned, the next phases of construction (it’s estimated to be a 20+ year project!). The rain gardens we are monitoring receive stormwater runoff from the elevated highway above so one of the tougher tasks that I have been working on is finding the right monitoring equipment to handle and precisely capture the very high flows from the highway. After a long search of different options, we decided to try out a new brand of area velocity sensor to measure flow through our inlet pipes. I have been testing it for the past couple weeks in our fluids lab to see the sensors accuracy. It has been a huge learning process, but it has been very fun and I can’t wait to install and to eventually analyze the data from these sites.

Nora started at VUSP in January 2016 and came from working for a few years in Environmental nonprofit positions. She has an undergraduate degree in Geology from Bryn Mawr and got interested in Water Resources after starting a residential rain garden program in Haverford Township. She is working on the I95/Girard Avenue Interchange Stormwater Project with PennDOT and her advisor is Dr. Traver. She will graduate next summer (2017) with her Masters.

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VUSP work in the media – Post 1

Check out this article to learn more about Cara Albright, one of our PhD candidates’ research, which is funded by the U.S. EPA Science To Achieve Results (STAR) grant.


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Meetup Mondays – Post 5

This post was contributed by Erica Forgione.

Let’s hear from Madhat Fares!

Q. You are a sophomore at Villanova. How did your freshman year go? How was freshman engineering? Madhat

Madhat: That is true, it feels good to be able to say that I am officially a sophomore at Villanova. Freshman year was a great experience to learn about what kind of person I am and what kind of person I want to be. With respect to engineering, I had a fun first year. I met a lot of new friends, and the professors at Villanova are wonderful which made my first year extremely enjoyable.

Q. How did you get an interest in the VUSP?

A. During my spring freshman engineering class, Dr. Komlos mentioned that VUSP was looking for interns for the summer and that he could get us in touch with the lab director if we were interested. I have always had an interest in the type of work VUSP deals with so I sent Dr. Komlos an email that showed my interest and the rest is history.

Q. What was your experience working with the VUSP over the summer?

A. Working with the VUSP was definitely an interesting adventure. Everyday, I would be exposed to something new, whether it be new skills/projects or new music. I also gained first hand experience with working on stormwater sites and was able to help set up new equipment by the main parking lot. While installing the new equipment by the main parking lot I learned that not everything will go as planned. I learned that there will be unexpected factors that you cannot always take into consideration while planning and as an engineer you have to adjust to it. Overall, I had a great experience while working with the VUSP, largely because I was surrounded by great people.

Q. What do you look forward to for the rest of your VU career?

A. Academically, I look forward to learning more about what it takes to be an engineer and gaining more experience. I also look forward to being more active on campus and joining/exploring new clubs. There is a club for just about everything on campus and I would like to explore new activities.

Q. I heard you were thinking of studying abroad. Where are you thinking of studying abroad and why?

A. I am hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in the future. I have heard that it can be difficult as an engineering major to fulfill the graduation requirements while studying aboard but I am going to try and plan it out before making a decision. I am hoping to study in the United Arab Emirates but I am also exploring other options such as Ireland and Australia. I think studying abroad would be a rewarding experience and would allow me to step out of my comfort zone.

Q. What do you like to do for fun?

A. I try to have fun doing everything that I do. On sunny days, I really enjoy playing sports with friends, such as soccer, football, and basketball. On rainy days, I enjoy staying inside and watch movies or play video games. I also like to go bowling on Tuesdays and wear tropical shirts on Thursdays.

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Graduate Student Presentation – Erica Forgione

The Fate and Transport of Chloride in a Constructed Stormwater Wetland and Down-Stream Waters

Road de-icing salt is one contaminant of concern in stormwater runoff, as it has been shown to have negative effects on plant and animal species, decrease biodiversity, and degrade environmental quality. It has been assumed that road de-icing salt would wash through watersheds with spring rains, as road salt (usually NaCl) is soluble, and chloride (Cl-) has long been considered a conservative tracer. However, many recent studies suggest that significant proportions of chloride mass may be retained within a watershed and that chloride levels resulting from winter salting activities may remain elevated late into summer months. Stormwater control measures (SCMs) have been praised for both volume reduction and improved water quality, but recent studies are showing that certain SCMs may increase the negative effects of road salting on the surrounding environment, such as contamination of groundwater, trace metal leaching, stratification in ponds, toxic effects, and reduced biodiversity. Because chloride poses a possible threat to downstream waters, a study was performed to study the fate and transport of chloride through a constructed stormwater wetland (CSW), on Villanova’s campus.

The study had these main goals: i.) to determine if effluent concentrations of chloride from the CSW meet recommended EPA standards for chronic and acute criteria and ii.) to perform a mass balance of chloride upstream, within, and downstream of the CSW. Chloride concentrations were observed over a period of four years, from December 2011 – November 2015 and a mass balance was done with flow data for 2013 and 2014.

High chloride spikes were observed during the Salt Application period, between December and May, and heightened baseflow chloride concentrations lasted through summer months, even when storm event concentrations were low approaching > 10 mg/L. In using EPA freshwater quality criteria of chronic (230 mg/L) and acute (860 mg/L) toxicity as benchmarks, it was estimated that the CSW effluent is below chronic criteria only 39% of the year, exceeds the chronic criterion 61% of the year, and exceeds the acute criterion 12% of the year. Because this study was unable to assess the precise EPA criteria definitions (based on 1 and 4-day averages), this serves only as an estimate of the CSW’s performance.

A mass balance of the Villanova CSW showed that about 40-50% of volume is reduced between the inlet and the outlet, and an equal, if not slightly greater percentage of chloride mass is retained within the CSW as well. In comparison to road de-icing salt application estimates, there is evidence that there is a greater amount of chloride mass entering the CSW than from impervious surfaces alone. This leads to questioning the possibility that groundwater flow interacts with the CSW and carries additional chloride mass from upstream locations. Analysis of discharge and chloride concentration data of Mill Creek, the natural downstream waters of the CSW, showed that a large amount of chloride mass is added to Mill Creek after the CSW. This indicates that the CSW is only a small percentage of the total chloride loading through the creek.

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What’s Up Wednesdays – Post 7

Let’s hear from Samantha Butwill.

“I am currently creating a series of SWMM models for the East Branch of the Indian Creek. One goal of the models is to determine how the installation of storm water control measures (SCMs) will influence the water quality and quantity in the creek. To this end, I will model the current conditions of the creek, the creek after the implementation of a proposed swale system (slated to be installed at the end of the summer), and various hypothetical SCM implementation scenarios. Taking community receptiveness into consideration, I am working with Narberth Borough and Lower Merion Conservancy to determine which hypothetical scenarios are most feasible.”

Sam Butwill joined VUSP in June 2015, right after completing her bachelor’s in civil engineering at Villanova. She will graduate in May 2017 with a master’s in civil engineering. She is working with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative funded by the William Penn Foundation. Along with other colleagues, she manages three sites in upstream suburban Philadelphia (in Abington, Narberth, and Horsham), and her advisor is Dr. Andrea Welker.

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Meetup Mondays – Post 4

In this post, get to know Cory Byrnes’ experience working with the VUSP.

Sonali: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Cory: Well, I was born in Summit, NJ but moved to Charlotte, NC with my family when I was 2 and lived in Charlotte until I was 18. I am a bit of a unique student.  I am a 27 year old completing a second undergraduate degree; my first degree is in Economics from the University of Arkansas.  I love economics and the science that goes along with it, but I decided, after working at a mortgage company for a year, that day in and day out, office life was never going to bring me the fulfillment I wanted.  So after a bit of soul searching, I decided that I needed to change directions in my life and that any new direction I wanted to take was going to require an engineering degree.  So, after contemplating what format of engineering to focus in, I landed on Civil Engineering. That’s about the long skinny on how I got here at Nova.

Q. How did you hear about VUSP and why did you choose it?

A. I initially heard about the VUSP from Dr. Hampton (civil engineering professor at VU) who recommended me to the program and Dr. Traver’s work. However, I didn’t hear too much detail about it until Cara Albright (VUSP Ph.D candidate) reached out to me to potentially work with her on her portion of the project.  From there I communicated with Cara and Dr. Traver and got all the details. Green infrastructure development is a large part of the reason I decided to go back to school for civil engineering. Therefore the VUSP and Dr. Traver’s work was an automatic draw for me. Beyond my initial interest though, I wanted to get involved with a well-established organization/group, and the VUSP is definitely such a group.

Q. How has your experience been in the VUSP program so far? 

A. My experience thus far has been good. The research has given me the opportunity to work on a multitude of projects: everything from operating the flume in the fluids lab to do flow testing, to data collection and analysis, down to some more nitty-gritty hands on work in the labs and field sites.  It has been an enjoyable learning experience thus far and I do not anticipate that will change.

This article was originally published in the VUSP Summer 2016 Newsletter. The full article is available here.



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What’s Up Wednesdays – Post 6

Let’s hear from Taylor DelVecchio!!

“I am continuing to take daily readings of water storage at my bench-scale site on campus (with the help of my trusty partner Amanda). The volume removal data for the five soil types we are testing has proven to be interesting thus far. I am looking forward to the end of August when I can analyze all of my data for the summer months and see what trends we have. I am interested in seeing how the ET rates compare in all of the soil types. I am also leaning more into the quality aspects of my research. So far we have done seven quality testing events at my site, so I am excited to look at the results of the data. Also, I am working to set up flexible wall permeability tests in the soils laboratory to create breakthrough curves of phosphate for my five different soil types.”

Taylor did undergraduate research for the VUSP during her senior year here and then joined as a graduate student in summer 2015. Her site is a new site on campus called the Optimal Balance site. It’s a small bench-scale study site located behind the wetlands where they are testing different soil types for rain gardens. Taylor’s advisers are Dr. Wadzuk and Dr. Welker.

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What’s Up Wednesdays – Post 5

Today, one of our former graduate students, Zach Zukowski, is going to present his research work at 12:30 PM. The link to watch the video and the abstract are below.

Evaluation of Field Hydraulic Conductivity Data: Comparing Spot Infiltrometer Test Data to Continuous Recess (click on the link to watch the Live Broadcast or video after. Questions during the broadcast are welcome!)

Sustainable infrastructure research has led to an increase in the use of stormwater control measures (SCMs). Rain gardens are vegetated SCMs which promote infiltration, evapotranspiration, or both. As the use of rain gardens and other sustainable practices becomes more common, cost effective techniques are needed to determine site properties for design and to assess their performance after construction. A major component of rain garden performance is hydraulic conductivity, which can be determined by infiltration testing. The double-ring infiltrometer test, while commonly used in practice, can take long periods of time to complete. Single-ring infiltrometer tests often use less water and require less time to implement, enabling more tests to be completed in the same period of time.

Seven small single ring infiltrometer tests were performed at a rain garden on Villanova’s campus in Fall 2014 to determine the field hydraulic conductivity of surficial soil in the SCM. The instrumentation at the site used in the field study has been recording the recession rate in the pond over the past twelve years. Comparing the pond recession rate to the field hydraulic conductivity, it was found that the less commonly used single-ring infiltrometer method can be an accurate predictor of SCM performance.

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Throwback Thursday Series – Post 11

#TBT to 2013!! VUSP PA Stormwater Symposium 2013.


We love our biennial symposium. It’s a great opportunity to learn from one another and to network with other stormwater management professionals. Our next stormwater symposium will be held in October 2017.

However, we are hosting the VUSP Open House on August 10th, 2016. Mark your calendars. We will be sharing more details about the open house soon on this blog and on our website www.villanova.edu/vusp

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