Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

R. Ryan Dupont


R. Ryan Dupont


Joan E. McLean


Darwin Sorensen


Bruce Bugbee


David K. Stevens


Stormwater runoff may contain high levels of pollutants and is regulated by the Federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Stormwater bioretention (BR) systems are often used to satisfy these regulations. BR systems collect accumulated runoff that leaches into groundwater. A greenhouse study evaluated nutrient and metal removal among plant species that are typically found growing in BR systems. A field demonstration study assessed citric acid enhanced metal bioaccumulation potential under typical BR system conditions.

The greenhouse experiment examined pollutant retention, and bioaccumulation potential for six plant species undergoing three hydraulic and pollutant loads. Results verified there was 98% recovery of total phosphorous over the study period. Biomass increased with higher hydraulic and pollutant loads for all species. Phragmites australis, Carex praegracilis, and Carex microptera took up significantly more total phosphorous and nitrogen mass into shoots than Typha latifolia, Scirpus valid us, and Scirpus acutus.

This study also found that 89% of applied metals were removed within the top 27 em of soil in all treatments. Similar results were found regarding copper, lead, and zinc concentrations and bioaccumulation. Carex praegracilis, and Carex microptera exhibited higher metal distribution in plant tissue and exfiltrate, and lower distribution in the soil media than the other species. This indicated species differences in biological and chemical processes taking place within the simulated BRsystems.

The field experiment investigated citric acid enhanced metal bioaccumulation potential among three different plant species under representative BR conditions. Citric acid significantly increased metal concentrations in the soil pore water for the planted treatments, but this did not result in increased metal uptake into plant tissue. However, notable differences were found among species, where Carex microptera accumulated more AI, Cr, Cu, and Fe in the above ground tissue than Helianthus maximiliani and Typha /atifolia (except for Cu in Helianthus). These results provide greater insight into the biological and chemical process that affect transport, uptake and translocation of nutrients and metals, and confirm the importance of species selection in BR systems to optimize nutrient and metal retention and recovery from stormwater runoff to minimize subsequent groundwater pollutant loading.