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Vivian Serpa, junior in environmental management, researches online new ways to catch rainwater from the campus parking lots. This project is a part of her special topic class that she is working one on one on with her professor. Kara Waltman

Student studies storm water for safety

Vivian Serpa, senior in environmental and safety management, has been working on a safety internship in determining the impact of rainfall events on campus and investigating methods to improve storm water runoff and replenish ground water aquifers. 

“In today’s world, we are facing challenges socially, politically and economically in environmental crisis, especially in water crisis,” Serpa said. 

Serpa’s main project is to find out the storm water impact on campus. Vivian said every drop of oil, sediment particle, and trash will be relocated by storm water and pollutants will ultimately arise and reside in watersheds, the home of various animal and plant species. 

“The project would illustrate ways PSU could be a better steward of storm water for landscape purposes as well as irrigation,” Serpa said, “This project will help me to develop skills and be able to go back to Brazil and apply what I learned because the storm water runoff has been a big concern in Brazil since urban areas are developing so fast and we need to find solutions to keep the storm water away from watersheds and rain forests.” 

Serpa researching ways to collect samples of storm water on campus and reuse this water for irrigation and landscaping purposes. Serpa said she is using what she is learning in her water quality and solid waste management class in this project. 

“I am waiting on the campus architect and landscaper to give me all the information I need about the campus and my main purpose is ‘How can I collect this water?’ and to do some studies and researches about the impact on our campus,” Serpa said.  

Serpa said in Sao Paulo, Brazil, they’re facing environmental issues on their campus from the storm water impact that resulted in pollution and health problems for the students and the residents.  

“This project will help me in learning about sustainable ways and options to manage, reuse, and recycle the storm water and develop local solutions to engage the public in responding and helping with future weather events.” Serpa said.  

Patrick Flynn, professor in environmental and safety management, mentored Serpa in her project and helped her with finding ways and methods to improve the impact of storm water on campus and to mitigate and reuse this water for other water management purposes. 

“My support to Vivian is helping her to identify the right people on this campus to quantify how much surface area is actually impervious surface and it will give the idea of when we receive a rain, how many gallons of water she needs to mitigate or repair before it goes into Cow Creek,” Flynn said.  

Flynn said that he is aware of the impact of storm water in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the unusual amount of impervious surface. 

“This project, is a large scale for Pittsburg, is still smaller compared to the magnitude of impervious surface that’s in her hometown and it’ll be something that she should take with her when she leaves that will enhance her employment and her education as she continues,” Flynn said. 



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