Longevity of bioretention depths for preventing acute toxicity from urban stormwater runoff

Lane Maguire

Washington State University

Co-Authors: J.K. McIntyre, J.W. Davis

The migration of coho salmon every fall from the ocean to the upper reaches of freshwater streams coincides with increasing rainfall in the Pacific Northwest. Much of this rainfall runs off of asphalt and other impervious surfaces found in urban areas, such as the Puget Sound Basin, and into the very streams where salmon spawn. Exposure to urban stormwater runoff, which contains a complex mixture of contaminants, can be acutely toxic to coho salmon. Previous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of bioretention treatment systems in treating urban runoff and preventing acutely lethal and sublethal effects to aquatic organisms. Municipalities are especially motivated to incorporate bioretention treatment systems into existing infrastructure in order to comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit requirements. NPDES permits are administered by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and require local governments to manage polluted stormwater in order to mitigate the effects of pollution and contamination on downstream waters. The current study aims to determine the effectiveness and longevity of bioretention soil media over time at various infiltration depths, including those shallower than 18 inches, the depth currently required by Ecology. Stormwater runoff is being collected from a busy, urban road site and applied to experimental columns, containing five different depths of bioretention soil media. Runoff is applied at an accelerated rate in order to simulate 10 water years in two calendar years. The chemical and biological effectiveness of the columns in treating urban stormwater runoff is assessed using analytical chemistry and the health of two fish species: juvenile coho salmon and zebrafish embryos. The study outcomes are expected to help inform stormwater managers, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit coordinators, and others involved in stormwater management.

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2 thoughts on “Longevity of bioretention depths for preventing acute toxicity from urban stormwater runoff

  1. Lane – I wanted to leave a comment and thank you for using real stormwater (instead of synthetic) for this analysis. This type of work has been done before but has suffered from the lack of ability to mimic the exact concoction that stormwater is through the use of laboratory chemicals. Kudos! I’m interested to see what you end up concluding from this work, and whether it truly is possible to reduce the acute (and perhaps chronic?) toxicity.


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