Penn State Law students learn about stormwater, tour Katz Building green roof

April 20, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Law students in Professor Lara Fowler’s Water Law & Policy class were given the opportunity to meet with and hear from Larry Fennessey, stormwater utility engineer in Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant. Following his talk on the University’s stormwater management actions, Fennessey took the students on a tour of the Lewis Katz Building roof.

Fennessey spoke to students about the impact of population growth on water management and the role of Penn State’s stormwater management and treatment system, along with Penn State’s commitment to sustainability.

Professor Fowler noted that the “regulation of stormwater issues is a critical one facing many communities today. The ability to talk with someone like Larry who manages it every day is a good way for students to see how laws and regulations play out on the ground.”

The University controls and filters stormwater runoff that flows onto and from campus, resulting in a net zero discharge of runoff in the Spring Creek Watershed. This means that the campus either infiltrates or reuses more stormwater runoff than it generates. In addition, Penn State owns its own wastewater treatment facility and sprays treated wastewater on designated fields through its “living filter.” This system keeps 100 percent of Penn State’s wastewater from directly reaching a stream.

While all of these efforts seem modern and progressive, Fennessey told students that Penn State has a solid history in sustainability efforts dating back to the early 1900s, when Old Main collected rainwater in a cistern.  The first wastewater treatment plant was put into use by the University in 1913.

In addition to outlining Penn State’s water management achievements, Fennessey also spoke about Penn State’s research into the soils and geology of the area, changes in stormwater regulations, and the difference between the science and political science behind stormwater research and management. He also mentioned that Penn State is working with other local municipal partners on stormwater issues.

The class ended with a tour of the Lewis Katz Building’s green roof, which is normally off-limits to students and the public. Fennessey briefed the students about the way in which water runs off the building, how the effects of the sun and surrounding environments (like the Penn State Arboretum) affect plant growth and weeds on the roof’s geo-textiles, and what makes the Katz Building LEED certified. Students were also treated to a rare panoramic view of Beaver Stadium, the Bryce Jordan Center, the Arboretum, and the north side of the University Park campus.

More on Penn State’s stormwater management is online, as well as a recent interview about Penn State’s water management efforts.  

Last Updated July 22, 2015