2012 journal article
Temporal analysis of stormwater control measure effluent based on windows of harmful algal bloom (HAB) sensitivity: Are annual nutrient EMCs appropriate during HAB-sensitive seasons?
ECOLOGICAL ENGINEERING, 49, 41–47.
Nutrient removal by stormwater control measures (SCMs) is typically reported in terms of an average annual percent removal or effluent concentration. However, when the performance of these systems is considered in light of downstream receiving aquatic ecosystems, which display seasonal sensitivities to nutrient loadings, the use of an annual-based metric seems arbitrary. To investigate the potential temporal mismatch between nutrient-sensitive periods in receiving water bodies and average annual reporting periods adopted for SCM performance metrics, a case study is presented for four SCM types (constructed stormwater wetlands, bioretention, vegetated filter strips, and swales) draining to the Neuse River Estuary (NRE) in North Carolina, USA. Outbreaks of harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the NRE have been related to different nutrient forms at different times of the year, resulting in a “window” of importance for a given nutrient. These windows were utilized herein to define seasons of interest for various pollutants, and thus how SCM effluent data should be grouped to evaluate seasonal differences in performance. Effluent SCM nutrient concentrations were analyzed on an annual and HAB-sensitive seasonal basis. Although the use of annual performance metrics was deemed either appropriate or conservative for total phosphorus and nitrate–nitrite, effluent concentrations of total ammonia–nitrogen were significantly higher during HAB-sensitive seasons from both bioretention areas and stormwater wetlands. In the case of the NRE, these data suggest SCMs such as bioretention and stormwater wetlands may perform less effectively during periods of HAB sensitivity and that the contribution of SCMs to HAB control in sensitive water bodies may be overstated using presently accepted annual evaluation metrics. Though the seasonal analysis presented is specific to HAB formation in the Neuse River Estuary, evaluation of SCM effluent nutrient concentrations on the basis of nutrient-sensitive periods in receiving water bodies has broad application to evaluation of SCMs in any nutrient-sensitive watershed. The present study suggests that evaluation of SCM performance with respect to nutrient-sensitive periods in receiving aquatic ecosystems warrants further study.