Skip to content
Bioretention Longevity Project

Purpose

Very little information is available on the long-term performance of bioretention for treatment of stormwater runoff. Additionally, it is unknown what depth of bioretention is necessary to provide long-term treatment. This project is designed to assess chemical and biological performance of up to 5 depths of bioretention over 10 years.

Scope

Bioretention in experimental columns will be used to treat highway stormwater runoff over 2 years of compressed treatment representing 10 water years. Five depths will be tested during the first two water years (6”, 9”, 12”, 15”, 18”) after which two depths will be eliminated. Three replicates of each depth will be tested, plus an additional 3 replicates of the 18” depth that will receive clean water only. A full suite of chemicals will be measured in influent and effluent waters for the storm representing the end of a water year (approximately every 7th storm). Toxicology tests of acute impacts from influent and effluent water will be assessed for the storm ending each water year. These will include zebrafish embryo screens (every water year) and juvenile coho salmon exposure (first storm, end of water year 5 and 10).

Project Summary

Bioretention is a popular and effective method for treating stormwater runoff. This project addresses the need for long-term data on performance in terms of removing toxic chemicals and preventing acute toxic impacts. This study will be the first assessment of long-term performance of toxicity prevention.

Timeframe/timeline

Experimental treatment: 2 years (Oct 2019-Oct 2021)

Parameters measured

Fecal coliform

Total suspended solids

Dissolved organic carbon

Calcium, magnesium, sodium

Total and dissolved metals (As, Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Alkalinity

pH

Nutrients (ortho-P, nitrate+nitrite)

Partners

USFWS Environmental Contaminants Division

Funders

SAM (Stormwater Action Monitoring)

Project Reports

Read the full report

Fungi Project

Purpose

Evaluate amendments to the default bioretention mixture (60% sand : 40% compost) for reduction of nutrients, bacteria, chemical toxicants, and toxicity to aquatic organisms.

Scope

Replicate installations (n = 3 per treatment) of bioretention amended with plants and/or fungi were constructed at the WSDOT ‘Ultra-urban stormwater testing facility’ in Seattle, WA where they treated stormwater from I-5 and the surrounding watershed over 2 years. Hydrology, chemistry, and toxicology was monitored for one storm per quarter.

Timeframe/timeline

Field Test: Feb 2017-Feb 2019

Parameters measured

Hydrology

Saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat)

Soil temperature & moisture

Chemistry

E. coli

Fecal coliform

Total suspended solids

Dissolved organic carbon

Total organic carbon

Total and dissolved metals (As, Cd, Cu, Cr, Ni, Pb, Zn)

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Alkalinity

pH

Biological & chemical oxygen demand

Nutrients (ortho-P, total P, nitrate+nitrite, ammonia, total Kjeldahl N)

Toxicology

Zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryo survival and sublethal morphometrics (length, eye area, pericardial area)

Partners

USFWS Environmental Contaminants Division

Funders

SAM (Stormwater Action Monitoring)

Project Reports

View the full report

Rain Gardens at WSU

Purpose

The mulch layer of a rain garden prevents erosion, controls weeds, retains moisture, adds organic material to the soil and improves drainage. The purpose of this project is to see what, if any, benefits exist from using one type of mulch versus another.  The project is a collaborative effort with the Washington Department of Ecology and Washington State University.

Scope

Starting in the fall of 2019, stormwater will be collected during targeted rain events. During the spring/summer growing season, gardens will be monitored for weed suppression and soil moisture retention by mulch type.

Project Summary

Rain gardens are used to collect and process stormwater with known success. However, maintenance of rain gardens is a time-consuming endeavor—weeding (herbicides are not recommended) and watering (during the dry summer months years 1-3 while plants are establishing). Is there a mulch that performs better at reducing these tasks?

Timeframe/timeline

2 years starting in the fall of 2019

Parameters measured

Water quantity

Water quality

Weeding effort and plant replacement costs

Elements Included in this Project

16 rain gardens at WSU-Puyallup were retrofitted in 2017 to allow researchers to hold and collect water applied to them.

There will be four replicated rain gardens containing these types of mulch:

a. Bark mulch (fir)

b. Shredded bark mulch (cedar)

c. Arborist chips

d. No mulch—control

Idea school

Purpose

A variety of permeable pavement concoctions have been installed at the IDEA school’s parking lot and bus lane. The purpose is to study these mixes side by side for desirable qualities in strength/longevity and stormwater pollutant reduction outcomes. The project is a collaborative effort with Tacoma Public Schools, Washington State Department of Ecology, Boeing, City of Tacoma Center for Urban Waters, and Washington State University.

Scope

Starting in the fall of 2019, stormwater will be collected during targeted rain events. Sections of targeted pavements have sensors tracking the durability component.

Project Summary

Permeable pavements have a proven track record of improving stormwater cleanliness, however, their durability is still a work in progress. Often, in high traffic volume areas, the pavement can start to break down, or ravel, from turning vehicle wheels. Working with Boeing, the pavement mixes at the Tacoma Idea School were created with different quantities/types of carbon fibers to study the added strength benefit.

Timeframe/timeline

2 years starting in the Fall of 2019

Parameters measured

Water quality/quantity

Pavement strength/durability

Elements Included in this Project

There are four water sampling stations:

  • Porous Asphalt with carbon fibers
  • Porous Asphalt without carbon fibers
  • Pervious Concrete with carbon fibers
  • Pervious Concrete without carbon fibers

There are temperature and strain sensors within the pavement types

https://www.tacomaschools.org/idea/Pages/Permeable-Pavement.aspx?fbclid=IwAR3RMKQJeZFYN0hutu4mQbkljlWZVULGnq1B–mNEWXmS7sKtGwGVt3MCKI

PAH Bacteria Project

Purpose

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of bioretention cells (filters made of soils, gravels, and plants) to reduce loads of organic contaminants and bacterial pathogens in stormwater.  Typical bioretention systems (e.g., raingardens) have demonstrated variable removal of such pollutants. Recent studies suggest that amendment with fungi and /or biochar may improve removal and breakdown of these contaminants. This study will evaluate these amendments as potential BMP recommendations for organic contaminant and bacterial pathogen removal from stormwater.

Scope

For one year (fall of 2019-2020), stormwater will be collected during targeted storm events and applied to a series of experimental bioretention cells. The stormwater flowing into and out of the cells will be collected and analyzed for organic contaminants and pathogenic bacteria. Soil samples will be taken from the cells periodically to evaluate the fate and transport of organic contaminants in bioretention cells.

Project Summary

Organic contaminants and bacterial pathogens are common stormwater pollutants which contribute to degradation of aquatic ecosystems, recreational water use, and fisheries production. These pollutants are not currently regulated in the stormwater permitting process because more information is needed on how to efficiently remove these pollutants from stormwater. In this study we will evaluate the capacity of typical bioretention soils, and potentially beneficial amendments (biochar and fungi), to remove these targets pollutants from stormwater.

Timeframe/timeline

2 years starting in fall 2018

Parameters measured

• Organic contaminants in water and soil

• Bacterial pathogens in water

• Soil moisture and temperature in bioretention cells

• Conventional water quality parameters (pH, DOC, TSS)

Elements Included in this Project

Three bioretention designs will be evaluated:

• Typical bioretention soil media (BSM: compost+ sand+ plants+ gravel drainage)

• BSM + fungi

• BSM + biochar

• BSM + fungi +biochar

Tree Project

Purpose

Our environment is quickly losing forested areas, that work as stormwater buffers, to impermeable urbanized landscapes. Currently, there does not exist a study that provides reliable and consistent information as to the stormwater value of the native species of trees in Western Washington state. This is an issue for local managers that need to make decisions based on the value of these trees. Our goal is to provide a comprehensive dataset that can be used to argue for the long-term conservation of established native tree stands in areas facing construction.

Scope

Two areas with diverse microclimates near Olympia, WA have been outfitted with a variety of environmental sensors. These sensors are either measuring ambient climate variables or are associated with individual trees. Four species common to the pacific northwest were chosen. This includes two evergreen species douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and western redcedar (Thuja plicata), and two deciduous species, red alder (Alnus rubra) and bigleaf maple (Acer macrophylum). Over two years, several rain events and antecedent dry periods will be targeted. Data from these events will then be evaluated in order to quantify how much precipitation, which would contribute to stormwater volumes in urban environments, is being used by these trees.

Project Summary

Planting trees in rain gardens, bioswales, and other green stormwater infrastructure is a popular best management (BMP) practice for stormwater engineers. However, stands of native trees that exist in and around urban areas face removal as cities continue to expand. By presenting the unique stormwater value of existing native trees with a data rich study we hope to show that it is possible to include the conservation of these species in highly quantitative BMP frameworks that are used to ascribe stormwater credits.

Timeframe/timeline

2 years starting in the Summer of 2019

Parameters measured

Transpiration (sap flow)

Interception (precipitation – throughfall)

Precipitation

Soil Moisture

Solar Flux and Photosynthetically Active Radiation

Wind Speed and Direction

Temperature and Relative Humidity

Elements Included in this Project

There are eight tree sampling stations. Each sampling station has at least eight trees equipped with sensors to measure transpiration via sap flow and a network of troughs with at least six rain gauges that are able to capture water penetrating tree canopies. Several soil moisture sensors to observe soil wetting, canopy sensors to measure canopy temperature and relative humidity, and weather stations to measure ambient conditions are also included.