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Great Lakes Article:

New pavement keeps Lake Superior-bound water clean
By Craig Lincoln
Duluth News Tribune

Leaky pavement may be one solution to a sticky development problem in Duluth.

That's the hope, at least, of the city and the company developing a London Road parcel.

A&L Properties is using a new form of concrete paving block to develop its London Road property at 17th Avenue East. The block is designed to eliminate runoff from parking lots and clean the water before it reaches Lake Superior.

Runoff from paved parking lots has gained the attention of regulators and environmentalists.

Pavement heats up water and loads it with sediment and grime before shooting it pell-mell into streams and lakes. Surface runoff is now one of the bigger sources of water pollutants in the nation.

"If this works out, we're going to try to encourage other commercial developments to use it within shoreland zones," said Jim Mohn, a Duluth city planner.

And in Duluth, a shoreland zone is a big deal. Any development within 1,000 feet of Lake Superior or 300 feet of a river or stream is considered to be in a shoreland zone. That includes a lot of Duluth's commercial land, such as Park Point, downtown and the Miller Hill corridor.

"In new projects, this is absolutely the type of things they should be doing," said David Zentner, chairman of the Miller Creek Joint Powers Board. The board is a partnership between Hermantown and Duluth created to help protect Miller Creek from being damaged by development. "So much of the conflict in the environment is to try to get people to change their behavior, even if just a little bit," he said.

The lot, about 110 feet by 150 feet, will the site of the new St. Germain's paint store. The store is being moved from 1021 E. Superior St. to make room for a St. Luke's Hospital expansion.

The developer, A&L Properties, built Duluth's Technology Village and many other recent developments. Without the special paving blocks, developing the London Road lot "would have been challenging," said Mike Kratt, property manager for A&L. "We probably could have pulled it off, but this certainly helped."

The paving blocks, called a Uni Eco-Stone system, are shaped like octagons. When fitted together, they leave small square holes all over the parking lot. The holes are filled with gravel, which allows water to drain and serves as a filter.

The surface is on top of gravel or a pipe system, depending on what works best for each site, said Craig Olson of Borgert Products Inc. of St. Joseph, Minn. Borgert distributes the paving block.

As the water percolates through the gravel, sediments are filtered out and it cools down, Olson said.

The paving block is more expensive than regular pavement. It's difficult to say how much, because each parking lot requires different base layers and engineering.

"If we can start with one drop and start recharging that water, problems with clean water will be solved," Olson said.

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