Civic News

Smart ponds on Walmart property aim to protect the Chesapeake Bay

The stormwater management technology is designed to address pollution and flooding. Through a partnership between state and private entities, it's being rolled out in four sites in Maryland.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn speaks at a November press conference introducing smart ponds.

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Department of Transportation)

Maryland is piloting new technology that’s designed to help curb pollution and flooding: Its transportation and environment departments are contributing $4 million to introduce smart ponds in four locations around the state.

The state government is also working with Boston-based tech company Opti and the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit Nature Conservancy to introduce the IoT applications, while the testing waters are ponds that sit on land owned by Walmart. Locations are as follows:

  • Walmart Supercenter Fruitland, 409 N. Fruitland Blvd.
  • Walmart Supercenter Aberdeen, 645 S. Philadelphia Blvd.
  • Walmart Supercenter North East, 75 North East Plaza
  • Sam’s Club Hagerstown, 1700 Wesel Blvd.

Officials see the stormwater management technology as a new tool to address two of Maryland’s biggest environmental concerns: reducing the amount of nutrients from stormwater runoff that pollute water systems, including the Chesapeake Bay, and protecting against flooding.

Assistant Transportation Secretary Charles Glass said a meeting with Opti proved compelling on a number of levels.

“It resonated for improving water quality. It resonated for being less costly to implement, and we jumped on a process of implementing the technology,” Glass said.

The pilot brings IoT to the retention ponds that collect stormwater on the Walmart properties. Sensors monitor water levels and volume, while remotely controlled valves control when water is released. Holding water for longer can increase water quality, since more sediment and nutrients settle out after falling from the sky. That means there will be less pollution in the runoff that makes its way out of the ponds, officials said.

Pulling data from weather forecasts into the mix, the ponds can also release water to prepare for rain, which could help reduce flooding downstream.

The technology can also be operated manually from a device that’s connected to the internet.

Along with environmental benefits, it also represents cost savings. Glass said the Maryland Department of Transportation has been spending $150,000 an acre to treat roadways for nitrogen and phosphorous. With this partnership, the treatment is available for about $37,500 an acre.

The transportation department will receive credits from the Maryland Environmental Service for the cleanup, as well as 20 years of operation and maintenance. The state allows environmental credits to be bought and sold for cleaning up the nutrients that pollute the bay.

If results from the pilot are positive, officials are hoping to expand to help other sites around the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“We will be able to expand this to our own properties, which would continue to lower the cost as we scale,” Glass said.

Ultimately his team is looking beyond the state, as well, Glass said: With Maryland being a testing ground, the state can play a role in helping the pilot expand nationally.

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