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Characteristics of Highway Stormwater Runoff

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Highway stormwater runoff was monitored at three highway sites in Los Angeles, California, during the 2000 to 2003 wet seasons. Event mean concentrations (EMCs), partial event mean concentrations (PEMCs), and mass first flush (MFF) factors were calculated for more than 20 water quality parameters for samples from 20 storm events from each site. The early runoff had higher concentrations, as indicated by the PEMCs at 30 and 60 minutes into the storm, which were 1.9 to 7.4 times higher than the EMCs. A strong first flush was observed for chemical oxygen demand (COD) and other organic pollutants, with 40% of the pollutant mass being discharged in the first 20% of the runoff. A weak first flush was observed for ionic pollutants, such as nitrate and nitrite. Pearson correlation analyses of the EMCs, PEMCs, and MFFs showed strong correlations among dissolved organic carbon, COD, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, oil and grease, and ammonia-nitrogen. Contrary to generally held beliefs, poor correlation between total suspended solids and most other conventional pollutants was observed. In addition, poor correlation between most monitored pollutants and storm characteristics, except for antecedent dry days, was observed.

Keywords: correlation; event mean concentration; highways; mass first flush; partial event mean concentration; storm characteristics; stormwater

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2006

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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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