'Smart Sponge' could keep beaches open

FULLERTON (KABC) A worker takes a sample of water contaminated with bacteria before it passes through a tube filled with a specially-treated material that looks like popcorn called a Smart Sponge. Within seconds, as it flows out of the end of the pipe, the water's bacteria level is down -- way down.

Testing taking place at Cal State Fullerton.

"We found very good removal," said Cal State Fullerton professor Dr. Jeff Kuo. "Lots of times 90, 95 percent removal."

Whenever we have heavy rain, authorities warn people not to go into the water for 72 hours because of high bacteria levels.

"The Smart Sponge will help reduce amount of beach closures due to bacteria and oil concentrations," said Duane Cook, the chief operating officer of Hydrofix California

Officials say the product by Abtech Industries can be used a variety of ways. For instance in a box that sits curbside inside a drain.

"The water passes through the filter, out the bottom," said Cook. "This cleans the water that goes down the storm drains after a rain event."

Officials say 15,000 devices are installed across the U.S.

Newport Beach tried it five years ago.

"We found it worked okay for a short time, but then the amount of flow we had overwhelmed the smart sponge," said Dave Kiff, Newport Beach assistant city manager.

Newport Beach removed 60 devices. Officials say at $200 a sponge and lasting sometimes just months, it cost too much to replace.

Officials with Smart Sponge say the model they are now testing is more advanced and more efficient. They hope the final tests will prove this and provide concrete figures to show how it can make our water cleaner and safer.


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