SOCORRO, N.M. -- Three New Mexico Tech researchers have developed an innovative containment system to prevent contamination of groundwater from industrial spills which commonly occur around gas stations and storage tank facilities throughout the world.
"New Mexico Tech's spill prevention system may be the economic edge that underground storage tank owners and operators need to remain competitive in today's costly and litigious regulatory environment," says the system's co-inventor T. M. "Mike" Whitworth, a chemical hydrogeologist at the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources (NMBMMR).
Whitworth collaborated on the development of the new system with fellow co-inventors David Love, a senior environmental geologist at the NMBMMR, and Jane Calvert Love, an editor at the NMBMMR.
The three-dimensional liner is the only one currently available that can prevent groundwater contamination from all four of the most common sources of contamination from underground storage tanks -- surface spills and overfills (which commonly occur at gas stations and often contaminate underlying groundwater); underground storage tank leaks; piping failures; and faulty installations.
"The spill prevention system contains no moving parts, yet can be used to remediate spills captured by the liner. In fact, the system can easily separate and remove as little as one pint of gasoline from as much as 200,000 gallons of water," Whitworth points out.
"It is also completely floodproof and is unaffected by rising groundwater levels" he added.
"Versions of this spill prevention system can be installed for surface tanks, or at tank farms and pipeline pumping stations, as well," Whitworth says, "and, in some cases without disturbing existing tanks or equipment while it protects the groundwater."
Materials which can be used to construct the various configurations of the new containment system include several types of commercially available fiberglasses and plastics.
"You could even use concrete if you wanted to, but the costs associated with that may be too expensive," Whitworth relates. "Our testing has shown that using a quasi-rigid fiberglass for the liner would prove to be the easiest to construct, transport, and install."
New Mexico Tech has filed a patent application on the spill prevention system and is currently offering licensing arrangements.
[Note: for more information, or to collaborate on marketing this new technology, please contact T. M. Whitworth, (505) 835-5921, firstname.lastname@example.org or Alex Thyssen, (505) 835-5658, email@example.com.]
Return to the U.S. Water News Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water News Homepage