Performance of vegetated roadsides in removing stormwater pollutants
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Stormwater runoff from highways can contain pollutants such as suspended solids, nitrogen and phosphorus, organic material, and heavy metals. Growing awareness leading to regulatory requirements reflects the need to protect the environment from highway runoff effects. The management practice discussed in this study is the use of vegetated roadsides. The primary objective of this research is to document the potential treatment values from vegetated roadsides typical of common rural highway cross sections in two Texas cities: Austin and College Station. Three sites in each city were examined in this study over a 14-month monitoring period. No significant difference between the edges of pavement pollutant concentrations were observed at any of the research sites in the two study areas. This allowed for direct comparisons of the vegetated roadsides and their associated site characteristics such as annual daily traffic (ADT), dry period, and rainfall intensity. The scatter plots of College Station data show that concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS), total Pb, and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in runoff are dependent on the antecedent dry period and decrease with longer dry periods. The results show that pollutant concentrations are not highly dependent on ADT. However, the results show that the number of vehicles during the storm (VDS) was evaluated and accepted as a satisfactory independent variable for estimating the loads of total Pb and TSS. The results of correlation analysis show that the concentrations of total Pb and chemical oxygen demand are significantly correlated with TSS levels. The findings indicate that nitrate concentrations in runoff is most dependent on the average daily traffic using the highway during the preceding dry period as well as the duration of that dry period. Sites 2 and 3 in College Station are steeper but outperformed Site 1 which has much flatter slopes. This could be accounted for by the poor vegetative cover (brown patches) at Site 1. In the Austin sites, the permeable friction course appeared to have a significant impact on the quality of runoff leaving the road surface. On the whole, the results of this study indicate that vegetated roadsides could be used as a management practice for controlling and treating stormwater runoff from Texas highways.
Rammohan, Pavitra (2005). Performance of vegetated roadsides in removing stormwater pollutants. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from