Texas Tech University

Engineering Professor Receives $1 Million Grant From the Department of Defense

Amanda Bowman

December 14, 2018

Professor Danny Reible

Danny Reible is working with the U.S. Navy on how to limit potential sediment recontamination at DOD bases.

Water contamination can come in many forms, whether from industrial waste or rusted pipes. Another way is by Mother Nature. When natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods happen, the water from those storms collects contaminants, like oil from parking lots or pesticides from lawns. The contaminated water can empty into oceans, lakes, rivers or water reservoirs, polluting them.

A team led by Danny Reible, the Donovan Maddox Distinguished Engineering Chair and a professor in Texas Tech University's Department of Chemical Engineering and Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction Engineering in the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, is working with the U.S. Navy and Geosyntec Consultants to find a way to solve this sediment recontamination issue, especially on Department of Defense bases.

"For this project, what we're doing is looking up in what we might call a 'storm shed,'" Reible said. "It's the equivalent of a watershed – an area of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, etc. – but we're looking at where the storms are making the most impact and giving rise to the storm water that's being generated. How do we better understand and manage the practices we currently use to control storm water?"

The Navy is interested in Reible's research because most naval bases reside in coastal cities.

"The Navy has two concerns," Reible said. "One is the storm water itself. It is a discharge just like an industrial outfall. So, just like the waters that leave from a wastewater treatment plant, these storm waters also are a source of contamination. They pick up contaminants when the water runs across parking lots and lawns.

"The second part of their problem is the Navy still has legacy contamination. Almost all of our old industrial harbors have some legacy contamination due to our past practices. The key question about how to deal with them is often, do we clean up the sediments at this point or do we still have sufficient ongoing sources that whatever we do is going to be reversed in just a couple of years? They have to manage both the storm water as if it's a pollutant source, which it is, and the Navy and other Department of Defense bases also have to decide whether the storm water has been controlled to the point that they can go in and actually clean up the legacy of past contamination in the receiving water sediments."

Though Reible is working on this project to help the Navy clean up its bases, the research can be used by any major city or business.

"Any facility, industry or municipality that has an issue with storm water that's running off into a body of water could make use of this information, and that's basically every major city in the U.S.," Reible said.