American Society of Civil Engineers

Treatability of Organic Emerging Toxicants in Urban Stormwater Runoff

by Robert Pitt, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, (Cudworth Professor of Urban Water Systems, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL. E-mail: and Shirley E. Clark, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, (Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering, Environmental Engineering Program, Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, PA. E-mail:
Section: 8th Urban Watersheds Management Symposium, pp. 428-440, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2011: Bearing Knowledge for Sustainability
Abstract: Bioretention has been promoted as a stormwater management technique that can reduce the loads of solids, heavy metals, and nutrients to surface waters. Many researchers have reported the treatment effectiveness of bioretention both in terms of percent removal and periodically in terms of effluent concentration. No studies, however, have evaluated the ability of carefully-selected bioretention media to treat pollutants to meet specific permit limits for certain organic toxicants and radionuclides. This project focused on the selection of a bioretention media mixture from pre-selected components — a granular activated carbon (GAC), two zeolites, two sands, and a peat moss — with the goal of treating numerous constituents, including dioxins, mercury, perchlorate, oil and grease, and radioactive components, along with numerous conventional constituents, to numeric permit limits. Two series of column tests, one focusing on long-term pollutant removal behavior and the other on the effect of depth/contact time on removal and using stormwater as the base test fluid, showed that a bioretention media containing a virgin coconut-hull granular activated carbon (GAC) was able to treat these constituents to the very low permit limits under a wide range of likely site conditions.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Organic matter
Stormwater management
Urban areas