Leading the way in stormwater management and technology

Mike Hannah, co-owner of Stormwater360
Mike Hannah empties the litter captured in the LittaTrap™ inserted in a catchpit outside Stormwater360’s office in Rosedale.

An innovative Auckland company is determined to eliminate the pollutants entering stormwater systems and ultimately discharging in the ocean - both here and overseas.

Stormwater360, based at Rosedale, has launched a new product – LittaTrap™ – that is expected to shake up the environmental market by more easily tackling the seepage of waste into the waterways, particularly plastic.

"The litter issue is a massive one and it is a global problem,’’ says architect Greg Yeoman who co-founded Stormwater360 with engineer Mike Hannah. The company is regarded as New Zealand stormwater specialists and it aims to be a world leader for stormwater management and green infrastructure solutions.

Stormwater360, established in 1996, first produced a metal filtration device called Enviropod® that is inserted in a catch pit and captures sediment, litter and other pollutants as runoff enters the stormwater drainage system.

Over the years Stormwater360 has invested heavily in research and development – with the support of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) – and has now created a portfolio of 15 products from storm filters to green roofs. Between 2013 and 2016 Stormwater360’s turnover doubled and staff numbers increased from nine to 15.

Among its exciting products are the LittaTrap™ which is a variation to the Enviropod®, and Filterra bioretention system with its specially designed filter media mixture. The engineered Filterra device works as efficiently as a raingarden but takes up less space and is installed in urban landscaped areas such as streets, parking lots and motorways.

The LittaTrap™, made of plastic, is lighter, more flexible and costs less than the Enviropod®. The LittaTrap™ fits underneath the grate in the catchpit, and a mesh screening bag attached to brackets collects and retains the litter while letting water flow through. The LittaTrap™, which has a flow diverter seal and overflow bypass, can easily be lifted out by hand and emptied by anyone, and has wider market appeal.

During an 11 month trial – when a LittaTrap™ was inserted into a catchpit on the corner of Beresford St and Hopetoun St in Auckland – Stormwater360 captured 10.72kg of gross pollutants. These included 2000 cigarette butts, glass shards, wine corks, bottle caps, straws, wrappers, cans and plastic – some of them entering the catchpit via the large kerb entry slot rather than through the grate.

The LittaTrap™ earned Stormwater360 a New Zealand Innovation award in 2016, winning the Innovation in Sustainability and Cleantech category. The evaluator said: ``Great idea. The product is light, cheap and easily transportable which are all the key attributes as you develop your export market. LittaTrap™ protects our pristine oceans from waste, meaning consideration could be given to offshore licensing manufacturing agreements.’’

Stormwater360 listened. The Auckland company is negotiating a licence agreement with leading American firm, Contech Engineered Solutions to distribute the LittaTrap™ through United States, Canada and possibly Mexico. Stormwater360 also has an agreement to distribute Contech products in New Zealand.

"We are looking at up to 20,000 (LittaTrap™) units a year to United States and Canada – Contech is one of the largest stormwater treatment providers in the world,’’ says Hannah.

The Filterra System
The Filterra System has a kerb opening and the specially-designed filter media mixture captures and immobilises the pollutants – the stormwater runoff flows through the media into an underdrain system where the treated water is discharged.

Stormwater360 has been manufacturing the Enviropod® under licence in Australia for some time and will now be exporting the LittaTrap™ across the Tasman. Over the years the company has sold more than 20,000 Enviropods® in Australia, and in New Zealand through resellers Hynds Pipe Systems and Humes Pipeline Systems.

Hannah says five to 10 per cent of the turnover has gone into research and development each year and ``now we have to convert the new technology, such as LittaTrap™ and Filterra, into growing our exports.’’

ATEED has worked closely with Stormwater360 and helped the company create a plan for exporting and growth. ATEED facilitated NZTE vouchers to fund business coaches who worked with Stormwater360 on strategic planning, export market entry and expansion, and governance and finance issues.

ATEED also facilitated Callaghan Innovation R&D funding which included Stormwater360 hiring a PhD student to complete research into the commercialisation of Engineered Bioretention Media. The research was invaluable and the graduate is now working full-time at Stormwater360.

"ATEED supported us by organising funding and expertise so we could implement our business plan,’’ says Hannah. ``In 2011 we drew up a five-year plan and at the end of it we had gone a long way there with new products and partnerships. We have acted on every opportunity we identified.

"We are hiring a general manager and then we will be striking out on the next five-year plan. We will be pushing out to the corporates and working with schools to promote our technology such as the LittaTrap™. We are passionate about making people more environmentally aware and keeping the water clean,’’ says Hannah.