Title page for ETD etd-05302000-16250046

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Lovern, Sharla Benjamin
URN etd-05302000-16250046
Title Assessing the Nonpoint Source Pollutant Removal Efficiencies of a Two-Basin Stormwater Management System in an Urbanizing Watershed
Degree Master of Science
Department Biological Systems Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Mostaghimi, Saied Committee Chair
Kibler, David F. Committee Member
Voshell, J. Reese Jr. Committee Member
  • Nonpoint Source Pollution
  • Stormwater
  • Best Management Practice
  • Urban Runoff
  • Retention
  • Wet Pond
Date of Defense 2000-05-15
Availability unrestricted
Monitoring of a regional stormwater management facility, located on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg VA, was conducted in order to assess its efficacy in reducing nonpoint source pollutant losses downstream. The facility design includes both an upper water quality (wet) pond and a lower 100-yr-event quantity (dry) pond. These on-stream ponds capture both baseflow and storm runoff from the southern portion of the Virginia Tech campus and surrounding lands, and release the water back to the unnamed stream shortly above its conjunction with Stroubles Creek, a tributary of the New River. Monitoring sites for flow measurement, water quality sampling, and biotic assessments (habitat evaluation and rapid bioassessment of benthic macroinvertebrates) were located above and below each of the ponds.

Both grab samples and automated samples were collected at these stations. Between 1997 and 1999, water quality grab samples included 35 baseflow samples and 22 stormflow samples. The grab samples were analyzed for concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS), metals, bacteria, and nutrients as well as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, total organic carbon (TOC), and chemical oxygen demand (COD). Automated flow-weighted sampling was initiated in February of 1999 and results are reported through the end of October 1999. Thirty-three storms in 1999 were monitored for flow and various water quality parameters (TSS, TOC, COD, and nutrients). Pollutant loads and pollutant removal estimates were calculated with regard to the wet pond, dry pond, and the combined facility. Two types of pollutant removal efficiencies were calculated: (1) the EMC efficiency, based on pollutant concentrations from individual storms; and (2) the SOL efficiency, based on pollutant loads, to estimate long-term performance over the study period. Benthic macroinvertebrate sampling and habitat assessment were performed in both 1997 and 1999. In addition, a preliminary investigation of pond characteristics was conducted, including measurements of water quality and composition, sediment deposition and composition, and residence time.

As a system, the stormwater management facility appears to have minimum impact on improving the downstream water quality. Pollutant concentrations and loads both appear to increase downstream of the facility as compared to upstream, during both storm event and baseflow periods. Monitoring results of the benthic assemblages showed evidence of moderate to high impairment at all sampling locations, and habitat assessments showed evidence of high sedimentation levels within the stream, even after installation of the stormwater management facility. Total suspended solids (TSS) concentration removal efficiency was 10% for the combined wet pond and dry pond system, much lower than the 80 to 90% TSS removal expected for properly functioning stormwater management facilities (Hartigan, 1989). There is some evidence of sedimentation within the ponds because of a slight reduction in sediment-bound constituent export, but the dissolved nutrient constituents had either very low and most often negative (indicating pollutant export) removal efficiencies. Concentrations of metals measured in the stream often exceeded their respective acute and chronic water quality criteria at all sampling locations.

Pollutant removal efficiencies measured in the wet pond are atypical of those reported in the literature (Schueler, 1993). Insufficient residence time (two days compared to the optimal two weeks), and wet pond embankment failure are likely the principal causes of the wet pond's inadequate performance and thus, the inadequate performance of the overall facility. TSS removal efficiencies were low in the wet pond (19% for concentrations and 33% for loads) compared to the 80 to 90% expected for similar ponds. Nevertheless, the wet pond reduced the concentrations of several pollutants typically associated with TSS and not likely to be associated with the fill material for the wet pond embankment. Zinc concentrations in sediment cores were highest near the pond inlet, where the majority of sedimentation occurs. During storm events, the following results were noted. Copper and zinc concentrations in 1998 were lower at the pond outlet as compared to the pond inlet, and TOC concentrations and loads were also reduced by the wet pond (13% for concentrations and 12% for loads). However, sedimentation is also expected to remove phosphorusl, and wet pond phosphorus loads were only reduced by 10% and 3% for orthophosphorus and total phosphorus, respectively.

Because the wet pond is undersized with respect to the watershed it serves (surface area less than 1% of the watershed area (0.87 ha), as compared to the 3% ratio often recommended for optimal pollutant removal (Athanas, 1988)), higher removal efficiencies were found during baseflow periods. The greatest reductions in baseflow concentrations were for ammonia (67%), nitrate (57%), total nitrogen (54%), and COD (45%). However, the residence time of two days appears to be insufficient to reduce fecal coliform concentrations in the stream, and over 40% of the fecal coliform samples collected exceeded the water quality standard for contact recreation (DEQ-WQS, 1997). Furthermore, the wet pond did not appear to reduce TSS or TOC during baseflow periods. Export of TSS (-29% EMC efficiency) and TOC (-44% EMC efficiency) from the wet pond during baseflow periods is likely due to the wet pond embankment failure as well as pond eutrophication. Eutrophication processes are favored by the water temperature increase as flow passes through the shallow wet pond. The wet pond increased downstream temperatures by approximately 8°C above inflow temperatures during the summer, and to levels above 21°C which cannot be tolerated by sensitive coldwater species (Schueler, 1987).

The dry pond did not remove dissolved nutrient constituents or other pollutants during baseflow periods, but there is some evidence of sedimentation within the dry pond during storm events. During storm events, the dry pond was effective in removing TSS, with a concentration removal efficiency of 69% (EMC efficiency) and loading removal efficiency of 43% (SOL Efficiency). Removal of TKN and total phosphorus (36% and 37% respectively for concentrations) within the dry pond is further evidence of sedimentation within the dry pond.

The wet pond embankment was built in 1997, and monitoring occurred during a potential stabilization period when evidence of water quality benefits are slow to appear, especially with respect to downstream habitat and aquatic communities. Some benefits which could have been observed more immediately may have been negated or masked by the progressive erosion of the wet pond embankment as a result of a design flaw. Further complicating the results is the appearance; based on observations of extended drawdown time and results from a water budget analysis in the wet pond (where inflow substantially exceeds inflow); that groundwater interacts with the pond in a complicated fashion, possibly including both recharge and discharge.

To fully understand the impact of the stormwater management facility on the water quantity and quality within this tributary of Stroubles Creek, monitoring efforts should continue after the wet pond embankment is repaired and is fully operational. If biotic community improvement is desired, the stabilization period could be defined by the time necessary to flush out accumulated sediment within the channel. Monitoring efforts should also expand to include the investigation of the groundwater regime and water level fluctuations within the wet pond. Further measurements of pollutant removal processes and influences upon those processes within the wet pond should also be considered. Last, the influence of the stormwater management facility on downstream flow regimes should be investigated to assess the adequacy of its performance with regard to flow control and prevention of stream channel degradation.

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