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Engineered Bioretention for Removal of Nitrate from Stormwater Runoff

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A bioretention unit is a simple, plant- and soil-based, low-impact treatment and infiltration facility for treating stormwater runoff in developed areas. Nitrate, however, is not attenuated in conventional bioretention facilities. Thus, this study systematically evaluated a reengineered concept of bioretention for nitrate removal via microbial denitrification, which incorporates a continuously submerged anoxic zone with an overdrain. Experimental studies were performed in four phases. In the first two phases, column studies demonstrated that, overall, newspaper is the best solid-phase electron-donor substrate for denitrification out of the set studied (alfalfa, leaf mulch compost, newspaper, sawdust, wheat straw, wood chips, and elemental sulfur) based on superior nitrate removal and effluent water quality. The nitrate loading and hydraulic loading studies in the second phase provided design information. In the third phase, system viability after 30- and 84-day dormant periods was evaluated in column studies, demonstrating that newspaper-supported biological denitrification should be effective under conditions of intermittent loadings. Finally, in the fourth phase, pilot-scale bioretention studies demonstrated the effectiveness of the proposed design, showing nitrate plus nitrite mass removals of up to 80%. These results indicate that engineered bioretention for the removal of nitrogen from stormwater runoff has the potential for successful application as an urbanstormwater treatment practice.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2003

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  • 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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