April 28, 2016
Vancouver, BC – Vancouver receives roughly sixty inches of rainfall each year and rainwater runoff from roadways often contains elevated levels of several metals, as well as heavy extractable petroleum hydrocarbons. Best management practices for stormwater treatment include the design and installation of engineered, or man-made, wetland systems, such as the Lost Lagoon engineered wetland located within Stanley Park, Vancouver.
Engineered wetlands, created for the purpose of treating contaminants from stormwater runoff, produce benefits for communities within British Columbia because they remove stormwater pollutants entering sensitive receiving waters such as lakes, creeks, rivers and coastal systems. They also can provide habitat for inner-city birds, mammals and plants. In order to improve on the design of future engineered wetlands, existing wetlands are monitored and compared against expected performance. Current monitoring methods, such as water and sediment quality testing, are expensive and difficult to optimize because of the variability of rainfall events.
Little genomic research has been performed for engineered water treatment systems that decontaminate stormwater, and there is confidence that genomics can help. A new research project, funded, in part, by Genome British Columbia, will address the development of a DNA-based tool for monitoring and validating the performance of engineered water treatment systems. Information gleaned from this research could enhance and improve management practices and design for engineered treatment wetlands operating in BC and other locations that also receive large amounts of rainfall.
“Advancements in the science of stormwater management, and the understanding of biological communities in receiving waters, are changing the way we build our cities,” says Chris Johnston, stormwater specialist at Kerr Wood Leidal Associates (KWL). “By monitoring the performance of the wetlands at the DNA level, we hope to develop a new tool that can more reliably measure the effectiveness of metals removal in treatment facilities such as engineered wetlands.”
The end-user, KWL, is partnering with the Stanley Park Ecological Society (SPES) and the University of British Columbia’s Department of Civil Engineering in order to develop insight around the trends and shifts in the microbial community along the course of the Lost Lagoon treatment wetland. Based on this work KWL will be able to see if these same trends exist at a lab scale, which means that applications for future wetland design projects will be validated and thus increase the use of these wetlands in BC in the future.
Because Stanley Park is a Canadian National Historic Site, the Lost Lagoon wetland in Stanley Park is a high-impact location for the development and validation of a DNA-based tool for monitoring stormwater treatment. Given the high activity in the area, this is a perfect location for the project: 60,000 vehicles travelling on the Stanley Park Causeway pass by Lost Lagoon every day and thousands of pedestrians walk the Lost Lagoon trail each week. The SPES plays a key role in increasing the public’s perception of plant and wildlife conservation and will gain short- and long-term benefits from this project’s results, particularly as they have are considering installing a second treatment wetland near Beaver Lake.
“This research initiative will inform KWL on the work needed to implement a genomics monitoring tool at stormwater treatment sites,” says Dr. Alan Winter, President and CEO of Genome BC. “And this means that our investment is being translated into actionable outcomes.”
This project, DNA-Based Tool for Monitoring and Validating Stormwater Treatment Wetlands, is valued at over $55,000 and was funded through Genome BC’s User Partnership Program (UPP). For more information on the UPP program, please click here.
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome British Columbia leads genomics innovation on Canada’s West Coast and facilitates the integration of genomics into society. A recognized catalyst for government and industry, Genome BC invests in research, entrepreneurship and commercialization in life sciences to address challenges in key sectors such as health, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, agri-food, energy, mining and environment. Genome BC partners with many national and international public and private funding organizations to drive BC’s bioeconomy. In addition to research, entrepreneurship and commercialization programs, Genome BC is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among teachers, students and the general public. www.genomebc.ca