Pilot study examining potential of low-cost prototype sensors to detect illicit storm drain discharges

Posted August 4, 2023

SCCWRP and Orange County Public Works have deployed a set of low-cost, prototype field sensors into Orange County storm drains as part of a pilot project aiming to automate the process of detecting illicit pollutant discharges.

The sensor deployment, which was completed in June at four sites, is generating a continuous stream of real-time flow and water-quality data as runoff moves through the storm drain system, enabling managers to look for fluctuations in the monitoring data that could be indicative of a transitory pollutant discharge.

Stormwater managers traditionally monitor for illicit discharges via periodic, in-person site visits, which limits the chances of detecting intermittent pollutant discharges that can pass rapidly through the system. By contrast, automated monitoring produces a continuous stream of real-time data, so managers can look for spikes and other sudden changes that become the basis for follow-up investigations.

The sensors being used in the pilot study were developed by an Australian research team based at Monash University and Queensland University of Technology, and feature open-source software and hardware.

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