Water quality treatment and hydraulic efficacy of laboratory and field rain gardens.
Thesis DisciplineCivil Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering
Urbanisation leads to increases in stormwater runoff, resulting in elevated contaminant (e.g. metal, sediment, and nutrient pollutant) loads, decreased local infiltration and greater peak flow intensities. Heavy metal contaminants of concern, primarily copper (Cu), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn), originate from a variety of sources including wear-and-tear of vehicle parts, corrosion of alloy roofs, legacy petroleum contamination, and multifarious construction practices. Different technologies have been used to mitigate stormwater runoff, ranging from traditional drainage networks fitted with concrete proprietary devices (e.g. vortex sediment separators and filters) to more environmentally integrated sustainable solutions.
Rain gardens, a type of Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) or Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD), are employed to control stormwater peak flows and runoff volumes and simultaneously reduce contaminant loads to neighbouring waterways through biologically-active landscaped design. Despite increases in use of rain gardens as a best management practice (BMP) to treat urban stormwater runoff, there is a dearth of knowledge about their treatment and infiltration performance worldwide. It is believed that incorporating topsoil into rain garden design is likely to improve contaminant removal efficiencies (Davis et al. 2001; ARC 2003; Fletcher et al. 2004; Carpenter and Hallam 2010), but design recommendations are not informed by performance data which is limiting. Performance data is necessary for understanding the long-term responses of bioinfiltrative treatment systems and for modelling efforts aiming to predict their mitigation behaviour (Fletcher et al. 2004).
In order to evaluate the influence of substrate composition on stormwater treatment and hydraulic effectiveness in rain gardens, mesocosm-scale (180 L, 0.17 m2) laboratory systems were established. Saturated (constant-head) hydraulic conductivity was determined before and after contaminant (Cu, Zn, Pb and nutrients) removal experiments on three rain garden systems comprising various proportions of organic topsoil. Raw stormwater runoff from a neighbouring Christchurch city catchment was collected, characterised, and applied in the removal efficiency experiments. The system with only topsoil had the lowest saturated hydraulic conductivity (160 mm/hr initial to 164 mm/hr final) and poorest metal (Cu, Zn) removal efficiency (Cu 0.3%, Zn 60.5% and Pb 89.5%) at a ‘standard’ contaminant loading rate (Cu = 5.99 ± 0.73 µg/min, Zn = 57.89 ± 6.06 µg/min, Pb = 13.65 ± 2.80 µg/min). The sand-only system demonstrated good metal removal (Cu 56.4%, Zn 73.5%, and Pb 81.6%) with hydraulic conductivity (up to 805 mm/hr) adequate for practical implementation (i.e. greater than the 13 mm/hr minimum requirement (ARC 2003; MDE 2009; SFPUC 2009)). Overall, total metal amounts in the effluent were <50% of influent loads for all experiments, with the exception of Cu in the topsoil-only system, whose removal was negligible (0.3%). Greater metal removal was observed when effluent pH was elevated (up to pH 7.38). The pH increase (from an initial pH of 6.23 in raw stormwater) was provided by the calcareous sand, whereas the topsoil-only system lacked an alkaline source. Consequently, organic topsoil had poorer contaminant removal due to higher dissolved metal fractions, which are more difficult to immobilise at the lower pH. The relationship between pH and dissolved fraction was highly significant (Pearson’s Correlation, p < 0.0001, df = 74) for Cu, Zn, and Pb.
Mesocosm-scale systems were then re-established with a calcareous substrate supplement to quantify the effects of pH augmentation on contaminant removal and hydraulic efficiencies. Mussel shells, a waste product from the shell-fish industry, were employed in two different volumetric proportions. Metal removal efficiency was increased in systems with mussel shells (Cu up to 46.6%, Zn up to 80.2%, Pb up to 88.7%) compared to the topsoil-only system (Cu 27.5%, Zn 55.5%, Pb 81.0%). Larger increases in removal efficiency were seen for Cu and Zn because increases in pH from mussel shell enhanced particulate fractions, which are easier to remove in filtration systems, while Pb is mainly in the particulate form at influent pH (Morrison et al. 1990). Effluent from systems with mussel shells also had higher hardness (hardness up to 101.7 mg/L as CaCO3) compared with 22.4 mg/L as CaCO3 in topsoil-only effluent. Hardness reduces metal ecotoxicity (Hyne et al. 2005). Results of these experiments show that mussel shells are a promising rain garden substrate capable of increasing metal removal efficiency and also decreasing metal ecotoxicity in effluent of bioinfiltration systems.
Concurrently, an operational field-scale “rain garden” (42 m3; 60 m2) in Christchurch was monitored for hydraulic throughput and contaminant removal. The field system performed extremely well at mitigating peak flows, detaining water throughout storm events and removing total suspended solids (TSS) (90.6% average removal). However, the system failed to reduce effluent median total metal concentrations (Cu = 15.9 µg/L, Zn = 139.6 µg/L, Pb = 11.7 µg/L) below relevant ANZECC guidelines (Cu = 1.8 µg/L, Zn = 15.0 µg/L, Pb = 5.6 µg/L) highlighting the opportunity to optimise these field designs to improve metal removal.