Is Long Island Sound Sponge-Worthy?
Terry Backer, the Soundkeeper, is working with Norwalk to install “box-like filters containing ‘Smart Sponges’ ” in 275 SoNo storm sewers. It’s an experiment because while the sponges have apparently worked in California, no one has tried them in colder climates.
The sponges are made by a company called AbTech. Here’s what its website says:
AbTech has developed the capability to bind an anti-microbial agent to its proprietary polymers thereby modifying their surface and adding micro biostatic features while maintaining their oil absorbing capabilities. The enhanced material, or Smart Sponge Plus, destroys harmful bacteria and other pathogens frequently found in stormwater and other water streams. The Company believes that this breakthrough is highly significant in the stormwater market.
The project is being funded by the feds, the state and a private foundation. I haven’t seen a budget, but $500,000 is a lot of money, although the cost presumably includes monitoring and analysis that wouldn’t be needed over the long term if they are shown to be effective. On the other hand, I can’t find anything that indicates whether the sponges themselves are expensive and if they have to be replaced often.
Would the economic benefit of keeping the beaches and shellfish beds outweigh the cost of the sponges? One would hope so. On the other hand, without the sponges, would the city be required to try other, more expensive stormwater controls – in other words, might the sponges be the lesser of two expensive choices?
If there’s a cost-benefit analysis around, or being planned, it would be interesting to see it, to determine if the beaches and oyster grounds really are sponge-worthy.