EPA Testing Permeable Surfaces for Green Parking Lots

Published on November 24th, 2009 | by

Nothing makes a city/suburb look like a concrete jungle more than acres and acres of asphalt parking lots.  Not only are parking lots an eyesore, they also are a source of water pollution due to urban runoff containing oil, grease, pesticides, bacteria, salts, animal waste, trash, heavy metals, etc.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is testing out a new permeable surface material to make parking lots greener and ease the problem of urban runoff.

Photo by kangsoonEPA testing out greener parking lot surfaces
EPA testing out greener parking lot surfaces

According to the Guardian, “Scientists estimate that up to 10% of land in US cities is now devoted to car parks…”  That’s almost 350,000 acres of parking lots!

Stormwater run-off from roads, drains and parking dumps the equivalent of more than a dozen Exxon Valdez tankers of oil directly into US rivers each year, in addition to dangerous levels of heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria and industrial pollutants. Traditional car parks also encourage sprawl, contribute to urban heat islands and offer little biodiversity.

At the EPA’s Edison, New Jersey facility, scientists are testing “a variety of different permeable pavement materials and rain gardens.”  The study includes ten years of data collection focusing on each surface’s effectiveness at removing pollutants and filtering water back into the ground.  The parking lots will be in use during the study “to accurately evaluate how the different types of pavement handle traffic and vehicle-related pollution like leaking oil.”  EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou explains, “By evaluating different designs and materials, this study will help us develop strategies to lessen the environmental impacts of parking lots across the country and make our communities more sustainable.”

Do we really have ten years to spare for the study of the effects of the new parking lot surfaces?  As the Guardian points out, it doesn’t really matter if you are driving hybrid or a Humvee when we are all parking on the same surfaces.  It would seem that only a couple of years of data would be sufficient to make recommendations for new parking lots surfaces.


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