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Michael Burchell

Professor and Dept. Extension Leader


Weaver Administration Bldg 200



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Date: 09/15/23 - 9/14/28
Amount: $656,514.00
Funding Agencies: USDA - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

This 10-week summer program will train six students per year for five years on the topic of agricultural runoff pollution through research and extension experiences. The program long-term goal is to prepare the upcoming generation of agro-environmental engineers and scientists, extension specialists, practitioners and industry leaders to address this issue by providing them with an holistic perspective of the science and practice. Students will engage in various experiential learning activities including training workshops, seminars, field visits, research and an ???extension abroad??? experience in France.

Date: 01/31/22 - 5/31/25
Amount: $100,000.00
Funding Agencies: NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund

Monitoring results from traditionally designed multi-cell stormwater wetlands and flow-through wastewater treatment wetlands suggest designing stormwater wetlands as flow-through rather than capture and release systems would provide cost savings and increase the implementation of stormwater wetlands for treatment (Hathaway and Hunt 2010; Merriman et al. 2016; Drake et al. 2018; Wang et al. 2006). The purpose of this project is to determine the water quality and hydrologic benefits of flow-through wetlands. More specifically, this project will address NC DEQ concerns regarding appropriate hydraulic retention times, vegetation selection, and pollutant removal credits. Addressing these concerns will determine if stormwater wetlands can be more cost effective than equivalent SCMs (e.g. wet ponds). To the project stakeholders' knowledge single cell stormwater wetlands designed for a hydraulic retention time rather than a design volume have yet to be constructed or monitored in North Carolina.

Date: 10/01/18 - 9/30/24
Amount: $249,619.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Water table levels (saturation periods) in wetlands vary across the wetland and change with soil type and drainage class. These saturation periods have not been determined for most soils, and consequently, hydrologic performance requirements for restored wetlands haven??????????????????t been well defined. The main objective of this project is to define saturation periods as a percentage of the growing season that restored wetlands should meet for the specific soils used for restoration. Saturation periods of natural wetlands will be determined for selected soil series ranging from very poorly drained organic soils to moderately well drained mineral soils. Data for most soils will come from prior investigations that measured water tables and computed 40 year records of water table data for each soil. Field monitoring of flood plain soils will also be conducted to complete the data base. Saturation periods for restored wetlands will be obtained from the data base of the NC Department of Environmental Quality which has catalogued water table and soils data from 233 restored sites in NC. Sites having soils similar to the natural sites will be identified, visited to determine soil type at each well location, and to assess wetland condition. Saturation periods will be compared between the restored and natural sites for a given soil type (series and drainage class). Saturation periods for wetlands successfully restored will be proposed for very poorly drained, poorly drained, somewhat poorly drained and moderately well drained classes. These results will allow saturation periods to be estimated for all soils across the region that restoration sites should meet to be successful.

Date: 10/01/19 - 6/30/24
Amount: $210,777.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Wetland monitoring in North Carolina (NC) has a 14-year history conducted by NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the first 10 years and North Carolina State University (NCSU) for the last 4 years. We will use the outcomes and lessons learned from these monitoring efforts to develop and implement a pilot, volunteer wetland monitoring program administered by NCSU with support from the Carolina Wetlands Association and RTI. This pilot program will establish the procedures and methods for a sustainable, citizen-based wetland monitoring program that can be expanded in future years. In Task 1, we will determine the methods used to monitor the hydrology, water quality, soil chemistry, vegetation and biota based on the outcomes of the September 2019 meeting of wetland experts from WPDG No. CD-00D25014. In Tasks 2 and 3, we will develop a project QAPP and SOPs for monitoring activities and provide training to volunteers including representatives from local and state agencies. In Task 4, we will establish 10-12 monitoring stations within undisturbed, protected wetland sites recognized as Wetland Treasures of the Carolina. Task 5 will develop a data portal for volunteers to share data, provide tools to visualize results, and develop applications to enhance the volunteer experience. In Task 6, we will develop and populate a database compatible with NC DEQ??????????????????s data structure and submit the data to NC DEQ??????????????????s for use in their wetland and other water programs. In Task 7, we will disseminate information and results through a quarterly newsletter, website, reporting to the EPA, and annual meetings, where we will also provide training to prospective volunteers. The outputs include a pilot volunteer wetland monitoring and outreach program, training materials and SOPs, data portal and supporting website, and various education materials (factsheets, newsletters, webinars). The data from these sites will determine the condition of different wetland types and demonstrate/quantify services provided by different wetland types. By becoming a sustainable volunteer citizen-based wetland monitoring program, this program will launch a state-wide wetland monitoring network and establish baseline metrics for wetland restoration, and protection.

Date: 07/01/22 - 5/16/24
Amount: $18,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The habitats of the Rachel Carson Reserve are vulnerable to changing environmental conditions and severe storms given the current rate of sea level rise and its coastal location just inside of Beaufort Inlet. Thus, it is important to begin resilience planning activities that will support persistence of these important habitats while also providing protection for the Town of Beaufort, which is located just north of the reserve. Through a collaborative process supported by the NFWF funds, several areas of the Rachel Carson Reserve were identified as highly vulnerable and needing research and/or restorative action. Two of these areas were chosen for on-the-ground projects that will enhance their resilience. The Division will work with North Carolina State University???s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering (NCSU) to involve students to assist in developing engineered plans for the two shovel ready projects at west Bird Shoal and the southwest ribbon of marsh at Middle Marsh. A commercial engineer (separate contract) will be the lead engineer. NCSU???s work will involve site visits for environmental assessment and working with the commercial engineer to develop the shovel-ready projects.

Date: 06/01/18 - 12/31/20
Amount: $119,959.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Water Resources Research Institute

Nitrogen (N) loading to our streams and rivers has improved since the mid-1990s through management practices that have reduced discharges from stormwater and agricultural sources. However, load reductions to surface waters like the Neuse River have not reached targeted goals, and eutrophication remains a major concern. Problems with N fluxes from our watersheds are expected to continue and worsen. Projected population increase and shifts in precipitation patterns will lead to significant increases in N loads to our surface waters, requiring new management strategies to reduce inputs by an additional 20-30%. Large facilities that treat wastewater for major municipalities are most heavily scrutinized, but what about the hundreds of small towns and communities that do not have advanced wastewater facilities? Often overlooked, the discharge limits for smaller systems for ammonia-nitrogen (NH4-N) are often high (10 mg/L) or even non-existent. Package plants that use aerobic processes to treat wastewater in smaller, rural communities often successfully treat NH4-N to low levels through the process of nitrification, but the effluent contains the byproduct nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N). Discharge of this form of nitrogen is often similar to loads discharged from agricultural facilities on an areal basis and will continue to contribute to eutrophication problems if left unchecked. To help meet current and future N reduction goals, the time is now to address these often overlooked sources using alternative technologies. Installation of constructed wetlands, known for high N removal potential, placed strategically in the landscape to intercept N from smaller rural wastewater treatment facilities, could be a solution to help NC get closer to its N reduction goals. Constructed wetlands are often used across the country and the world for advanced nitrogen removal from wastewater. In NC, these systems have been successful, but very few are in operation. The objectives of this research and outreach project are 1) to help small towns improve nitrogen removal performance of older existing constructed wetlands and 2) advance the understanding and use of constructed wetlands to remove nitrogen from domestic and municipal wastewater. 3) demonstrate the impact constructed wetlands could have on overall watershed N reduction when coupled with existing wastewater package plants.

Date: 02/01/11 - 12/31/20
Amount: $108,934.00
Funding Agencies: NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund

A large farm located in extreme eastern Hyde County uses intense drainage practices to allow for agricultural operations and to maximize crop yields. Currently, water management on the farm requires pumping of excess agricultural drainage water into the Pamlico Sound. Multiple stakeholders, which include members that have in some cases, been historically adversarial, have forged a partnership to develop a large scale restoration and water management plan that will encompass over 7,200 acres of land. This plan will significantly reduce pumped agricultural drainage water to the Pamlico Sound, and reroute this water through historical drainage paths that will enhance the hydrology and habitat on approximately 4,200 acres of forested wetland that have been drained (it is believed that this area formed a natural drainage way flowing northwest in the direction of the Alligator River). If this project is successful, it could signal a pivotal change in scale and acceptance of these types of projects, because our planning thus far appears to have minimized required socio-economic trade-offs between stakeholders. The current conceptual plan for replicating and restoring natural drainage patterns within this area include plugging of farm ditches, land contouring, creating impoundments for water reuse and migratory waterfowl habitat, and planting of native vegetation where needed. To reduce drainage outflow directly to the Pamlico Sound via pumping, this farm land to be restored may provide a more ecologically sound area to redirect a portion of agricultural drainage water. Hydrology in the restoration area which was historically common to pocosin ecosystems can be restored. In addition, as pumped drainage water flows through this area, sediment, nutrients, and bacteria contained in this water can be effectively removed through biogeochemical processes unique to wetland ecosystems. Some of this drainage water will also be available for reuse by the farm. Reuse coupled with infiltration and evapotranspiration in the restored areas will also reduce the net volume of water leaving the confines of the farm. The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University proposes to provide leadership in finalizing the design and overseeing construction of Phase I of this project. In addition, it is crucial that the initial hydrologic modeling efforts that addressed the feasibility of this project be intensified to determine how water will be managed following construction. Our initial estimates are that pumping costs will be reduced, and both the pollutant load reduction to the sound and assimilation capacity of the wetlands will be high - a win for all stakeholders. However, these hypotheses must be tested using long-term models that will be calibrated and validated with field and laboratory data obtained during this proposed effort. This overall project will serve as a demonstration of how environmental and water quality projects can be implemented in conjunction with agricultural operations. In addition, it will serve as an example for other farms in the watershed/drainage district that will lead to future restoration projects with additional water quality benefits. These studies proposed will be coupled with reporting and education at local meetings to solidify current fragile partnerships. Failure to do so may stalemate this and future projects of this scale.

Date: 03/01/19 - 11/30/20
Amount: $15,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Sea Grant Program

In 1996, the Town of Walnut Cove, NC designed and built a two-cell constructed wetland to upgrade their lagoon-based wastewater treatment system. For over 20 years, this constructed wetland has allowed the town to successfully meet their effluent permit requirements. In recent years, treatment efficiency for ammonium (NH4+-N), total suspended solids (TSS), and biological oxygen demand (BOD) has diminished. Additionally, the town has more frequently exceeded fecal coliform bacteria effluent permitted concentrations over the last few years. We believe that the age of the wetland system and associated detrital buildup is the cause for all of these issues. This proposal seeks to remove accumulated biomass from one of the wetlands cell and incorporate aeration, then test the change in treatment performance of the wetland. Results will be used to both inform the town and other facilities how to maintain and enhance water treatment potential their aging wetlands.

Date: 10/01/14 - 9/30/20
Amount: $397,377.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Wetland monitoring in NC has a ten-year history with much data collected on many wetland types. Important stakeholders are working with NC DENR to develop and implement a Wetland Program Plan. During this process, the agency was reorganized and funding was cut to NC??????????????????s Wetland Monitoring Program. As a land-grant institute whose mission is to protect the health and well-being of its citizens and natural resources, we must buffer the effects the elimination of this program will have on NC. This proposal seeks to expand the work done by the Wetlands Monitoring Program in NC by executing several key components documented in the EPA approved WPP. This proposal will expand and continue the monitoring of hydrology, water quality, soils, and biota at 18 long-term sites. The data from these sites will be analyzed to assess trends in wetland condition and establish baseline metrics for wetland mitigation as well as monitor other long term changes in wetland services. The efficacy of innovative technology will be tested to collect remote data. The proposal also will develop a comprehensive database for wetland monitoring data collected in NC. This will include establishing a wetlands monitoring technical workgroup to contribute to a more unified and robust monitoring effort in NC. The database will include data from a wide number of entities along with protocols for entering future data. This centralized wetland database will provide efficient access to wetland information for state and federal agencies as well as the public, including mitigation providers and conservation organizations.

Date: 01/01/16 - 6/30/19
Amount: $18,000.00
Funding Agencies: NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund

The overarching goal of this project is to demonstrate and evaluate constructed wetlands as a way to mitigate the effects of surface runoff/subsurface drainage on the water quality of the Little River, with particular emphasis in nutrient (N and P) reduction. In a partnership with ARCD, BAE will: 1. Provide consultation for final design and implementation of the constructed wetlands; 2. Design and implement a water quality sampling scheme that will maximize information gained on wetland treatment efficiency given a limited timescale and budget; 3. Synthesize data and evaluate the potential of constructed wetlands to improve water quality in the Little River watershed; 4. Participate in outreach such as field days and the development of education materials that will document potential widespread use of constructed wetlands in rural areas.

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