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Water Quality Improvement through Bioretention: Lead, Copper, and Zinc Removal

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Intensive automobile use, weathering of building materials, and atmospheric deposition contribute lead, copper, zinc, and other heavy metals to urban and roadway runoff. Bioretention is a low-impact-development best management practice that has the potential to improve stormwater quality from developed areas. The practice represents a soil, sand, organic matter, and vegetation-based storage and infiltration facility used in parking lots and on individual lots to treat runoff. Investigations using pilot-plant laboratory bioretention systems and two existing bioretention facilities documented their effectiveness at removing low levels of lead, copper, and zinc from synthetic stormwater runoff. Removal rates of these metals (based on concentration and total mass) were excellent, reaching close to 100% for all metals under most conditions, with effluent copper and lead levels mostly less than 5 μg/L and zinc less than 25 μg/L. Somewhat less removal was noted for shallow bioretention depths. Runoff pH, duration, intensity, and pollutant concentrations were varied, and all had minimal effect on removal. The two field investigations generally supported the laboratory studies. Overall, excellent removal of dissolved heavy metals can be expected through bioretention infiltration. Although the accumulation of metals is a concern, buildup problems are not anticipated for more than 15 years because of the low metal concentrations expected in runoff.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-01-01

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  • Water Environment Research (WER) is published monthly, including an annual Literature Review. A subscription to WER includes access to the latest content back to 1992, as well as access to fast track articles. An individual subscription is valid for 12 months from month of purchase.

    Water Environment Research (WER) publishes peer-reviewed research papers, research notes, state-of-the-art and critical reviews on original, fundamental and applied research in all scientific and technical areas related to water quality, pollution control, and management. An annual Literature Review provides a review of published books and articles on water quality topics from the previous year.

    Published as: Sewage Works Journal, 1928 - 1949; Sewage and Industrial Wastes, 1950 - 1959; Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, 1959 - Oct 1989; Research Journal Water Pollution Control Federation, Nov 1989 - 1991; Water Environment Research, 1992 - present.
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