Biofiltration technologies for stormwater quality treatment

Sammanfattning: Due to high runoff volumes and peak flows, and significant contamination with (inter alia) sediment, metals, nutrients, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and salt, urban stormwater is a major cause of degradation of urban water ways. Since current urban drainage systems, which heavily rely on piped sewer networks, may not be sustainable, attempts are being made to develop and refine sustainable urban drainage solutions, notably in Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) and Low Impact Development (LID) concepts. Promising systems recommended for application in both WSUD and LID are stormwater biofilters (also known as bioretention systems or rain gardens) using vegetated filter media. Besides their capacity to attenuate flows and minimise runoff volumes, stormwater biofilters have proven efficacy for enhancing effluent water quality. Furthermore, they can be aesthetically pleasingly integrated even in dense urban environments. However, there are still gaps in our knowledge of the variability of biofilters' pollutant removal performance, and the factors that affect their performance.In the studies this thesis is based upon, the effects of various ambient factors, stormwater characteristics and modifications of filter design on the removal of metals, nutrients and total suspended solids (TSS) in biofilters, and pollutant pathways through them, have been investigated. For these purposes, standard biofilters and variants equipped with a submerged zone, a carbon source and different filter materials were exposed to varying temperatures and dry periods, dosed with stormwater and snowmelt, and the inflow and outflow concentrations of the pollutants were measured.Although removal percentages were consistently high (>70%), demonstrating that biofilters can reliably treat stormwater, the results show that metal outflow concentrations may vary widely depending on the biofilter design and the ambient conditions. Prolonged drying especially impaired their removal efficiency, but variations in temperature and filter media variations had little effect on metal removal rates. The adverse effects of drying could be mitigated by using a submerged zone, and thus providing a more constant moisture regime in the filters between storm events. Combined with embedded organic matter, the submerged zone especially significantly enhances Cu removal, helping to meet outflow target concentrations. Similarly, installing a mulch layer on top of the filter provides additional sorption capacity, hence metals do not ingress far into the filter and are mainly trapped on/in the top layer by sorption processes and/or mechanical trapping associated with TSS. This leads to significant metal accumulation, which facilitates biofilter maintenance since scraping off the top layer removes high proportions of previously accumulated metals, thus delaying the need to replace the whole filter media. However, removal of accumulated pollutants from the filter media is crucial for successful long-term performance of the filters to ensure that no pollutant breakthrough occurs.Nitrogen removal was found to be more variable than metal removal, and to be adversely affected by temperature increases, leading to high nitrogen leaching in warm temperatures. Phosphorus removal rates were consistently high, since most phosphorus was particle-bound and thus trapped together with TSS. However, in initial stages phosphorus was washed out from the filter media, indicating that filter media that do not have high levels of labile phosphorus should be used to avoid high effluent concentrations. Given that most outflow concentrations were far lower than those in the stormwater, biofilters are appropriate stormwater treatment systems. Dependent on the ambient conditions, the target pollutants and the sensitivity of the recipient, adaptation of the filter design is recommended. Further work is required to investigate the winter performance and improve the reliability of nitrogen removal, which is highly variable.