photo iron enhanced sand media
Iron-enhanced sand media, Maplewood, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Plaisted Companies.
Caution: When considering potential impacts of phosphorus to surface waters, it is necessary to select the proper engineered media

This page provides a summary of engineered media mixes. The mixes are divided into those applicable for filtration practices and those applicable for infiltration practices. The page includes links to other pages in this manual and information on engineered media and media mixes used in locations other than Minnesota.

Media mixes for filtration practices

Caution: When phosphorus is a surface water quality concern, mixes A, B, E, and F should not be used in BMPs having an underdrain unless the mix is amended to retain phosphorus.
excample schematics of filtration practices
Example filtration practices: a) biofiltration; b) permeable pavement; c) sand filter. (Source: CDM Smith).

Mixes C and D are acceptable for filtration practices (e.g. BMPs with an underdrain). Mixes A, B, E, and F, discussed in the next section, should be avoided when phosphorus is a surface water quality concern unless amended to retain phosphorus. Amendments include substituting a source of organic matter less prone to leaching phosphorus (e.g. coir, biochar), or chemicals that attenuate phosphorus (e.g. iron, aluminum).

Mix C: North Carolina State University water quality blend

Source: North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2009. See Section 12.3.4

This mix is a homogenous soil mix of

  • 85 to 88 percent by volume sand (USDA Soil Textural Classification);
  • 8 to 12 percent fines by volume (silt and clay, with a maximum clay content of 5% recommended); and
  • 3 to 5 percent organic matter by volume (ASTM D 2974 Method C) MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890) is recommended.

A higher concentration of fines (12 percent) should be reserved for areas where nitrogen is the target pollutant. In areas where phosphorus is the target pollutant, a lower concentration of fines (8 percent) should be used. A soil phosphorus test using the Mehlich-3 (or equivalent) method is recommended but not required to receive water quality credits. The phosphorus index (P-index) for the soil must be low, between 10 and 30 milligrams per kilogram. This is enough phosphorus to support plant growth without exporting phosphorus from the cell. It is assumed this mix will not exceed the upper range of recommended values (30 milligrams per kilogram), although at lower concentrations of organic matter a soil test may be needed to confirm there is adequate phosphorus for plant growth.

Mix D

Caution: If phosphorus is a water quality concern for receiving waters, Bioretention Mix D (as well as Mix C) is recommended when using infiltration systems having an underdrain. The following discussion provides general guidelines for Bioretention Mix D. If using or considering Bioretention Mix D, please see specific guidelines for this mix to avoid confusion with Mixes A, B, and C.

Bioretention Soil Mix D soil shall be a mixture of coarse sand, compost and topsoil in proportions which meet the following:

  • silt plus clay (combined): 25 to 40 percent, by dry weight
  • total sand: 60 to 75 percent, by dry weight
  • total coarse and medium sand: minimum of 55 percent of total sand, by dry weight
  • fine gravel less than 5 millimeters: up to 12 percent by dry weight (calculated separately from sand/silt/ clay total)
  • organic matter content: 2 to 5 percent, percent loss on ignition by dry weight; MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890) is recommended.
  • saturated hydraulic conductivity: 1 to 4 inches per hour ASTM F1815. Note that although this infiltration rate is generally applicable at 85 percent compaction, Standard Proctor ASTM D968, this is an infiltration rate standard and not a compaction standard. Therefore, this infiltration rate may be met at lower levels of compaction.

Suggested mix ratio ranges, by volume, are

  • Coarse sand: 50 to 65 percent
  • Topsoil: 25 to 35 percent
  • Compost (assuming MnDOT Grade 2 compost is being used): 10 to 15 percent. Note this yields an organic matter content of approximately 2 to 5 percent.

Note that the above mix ratios are on a volume basis rather than a weight basis. See specific guidance on these.

A soil phosphorus test using the Mehlich-3 (or equivalent) method is recommended but not required to receive water quality credits. The phosphorus index (P-index) for the soil must be low, between 10 and 30 milligrams per kilogram. This is enough phosphorus to support plant growth without exporting phosphorus from the cell. It is assumed this mix will not exceed the upper range of recommended values (30 milligrams per kilogram), although at lower concentrations of organic matter a soil test may be needed to confirm there is adequate phosphorus for plant growth.

Media mixes for infiltration practices or modified infiltration practices

Infiltration basin Detailed Cross Section
Schematic showing an infiltration basin, which is one of several stormwater control practices designed to infiltrate stormwater runoff. Infiltration practices capture stormwater runoff and allow it to infiltrate into the underlying soil. Pollutant removal occurs through a variety of mechanisms, including adsorption, absorption, plant uptake, and degradation.

The following mixes are acceptable for infiltration practices.

Mix A: Water quality blend

A well blended, homogenous mixture of

  • 60 to 70 percent construction sand;
  • 15 to 25 percent top soil; and
  • 15 to 25 percent organic matter.
Sand: Provide clean construction sand, free of deleterious materials. AASHTO M-6 or ASTM C-33 washed sand.
Top Soil: Sandy loam, loamy sand, or loam texture per USDA textural triangle with less than 5 percent clay content
Organic Matter: MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890) is recommended.

It is assumed this mix will leach phosphorus. When an underdrain is utilized a soil phosphorus test is needed to receive water quality credits for the portion of stormwater captured by the underdrain. The phosphorus index (P-index) for the soil must be low, between 10 and 30 milligrams per kilogram when using the Mehlich-3 (or equivalent) test. This is enough phosphorus to support plant growth without exporting phosphorus from the cell.

Mix B: Enhanced filtration blend

A well-blended, homogenous mixture of

  • 70 to 85 percent construction sand; and
  • 15 to 30 percent organic matter.
Sand: Provide clean construction sand, free of deleterious materials. AASHTO M-6 or ASTM C-33 washed sand.
Top Soil in the mix will help with some nutrient removal, especially nutrients, but extra care must be taken during construction to inspect the soils before installation and to avoid compaction.
Organic Matter: MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890) is recommended.

It is assumed this mix will leach phosphorus. When an underdrain is utilized a soil phosphorus test is needed to receive water quality credits for the portion of stormwater captured by the underdrain. The phosphorus index (P-index) for the soil must be low, between 10 and 30 milligrams per kilogram when using the Mehlich-3 (or equivalent) test. This is enough phosphorus to support plant growth without exporting phosphorus from the cell.

Mix C: North Carolina State University water quality blend

Source: North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, 2009. See Section 12.3.4

This mix is a homogenous soil mix of

  • 85 to 88 percent by volume sand (USDA Soil Textural Classification);
  • 8 to 12 percent fines by volume (silt and clay, with a maximum clay content of 5% recommended); and
  • 3 to 5 percent organic matter by volume (ASTM D 2974 Method C) MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890) is recommended.

A higher concentration of fines (12 percent) should be reserved for areas where nitrogen is the target pollutant. In areas where phosphorus is the target pollutant, a lower concentration of fines (8 percent) should be used. A soil phosphorus test using the Mehlich-3 (or equivalent) method is recommended but not required to receive water quality credits. The phosphorus index (P-index) for the soil must be low, between 10 and 30 milligrams per kilogram. This is enough phosphorus to support plant growth without exporting phosphorus from the cell. It is assumed this mix will not exceed the upper range of recommended values (30 milligrams per kilogram), although at lower concentrations of organic matter a soil test may be needed to confirm there is adequate phosphorus for plant growth.

Mix D

Caution: If phosphorus is a water quality concern for receiving waters, Bioretention Mix D (as well as Mix C) is recommended when using infiltration systems having an underdrain. The following discussion provides general guidelines for Bioretention Mix D. If using or considering Bioretention Mix D, please see specific guidelines for this mix to avoid confusion with Mixes A, B, and C.

Bioretention Soil Mix D soil shall be a mixture of coarse sand, compost and topsoil in proportions which meet the following:

  • silt plus clay (combined): 25 to 40 percent, by dry weight
  • total sand: 60 to 75 percent, by dry weight
  • total coarse and medium sand: minimum of 55 percent of total sand, by dry weight
  • fine gravel less than 5 millimeters: up to 12 percent by dry weight (calculated separately from sand/silt/ clay total)
  • organic matter content: 2 to 5 percent, percent loss on ignition by dry weight; MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890) is recommended.
  • saturated hydraulic conductivity: 1 to 4 inches per hour ASTM F1815. Note that although this infiltration rate is generally applicable at 85 percent compaction, Standard Proctor ASTM D968, this is an infiltration rate standard and not a compaction standard. Therefore, this infiltration rate may be met at lower levels of compaction.

Suggested mix ratio ranges, by volume, are

  • Coarse sand: 50 to 65 percent
  • Topsoil: 25 to 35 percent
  • Compost (assuming MnDOT Grade 2 compost is being used): 10 to 15 percent. Note this yields an organic matter content of approximately 2 to 5 percent.

Note that the above mix ratios are on a volume basis rather than a weight basis. See specific guidance on these.

A soil phosphorus test using the Mehlich-3 (or equivalent) method is recommended but not required to receive water quality credits. The phosphorus index (P-index) for the soil must be low, between 10 and 30 milligrams per kilogram. This is enough phosphorus to support plant growth without exporting phosphorus from the cell. It is assumed this mix will not exceed the upper range of recommended values (30 milligrams per kilogram), although at lower concentrations of organic matter a soil test may be needed to confirm there is adequate phosphorus for plant growth.

Mix E: MnDOT 3877.2 Type G 'Filter Topsoil Borrow'

A well-blended, homogenous mixture of

  • 60 to 80 percent sand meeting gradation requirements of 3126, “Fine Aggregate for Portland Cement Concrete”; and
  • 20 to 40 percent compost meeting requirements MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890).

Provide topsoil borrow containing two blended components of sand and compost for water quality, plant growing medium, and filtration medium with a filtration rate of at least 4 inches per hour [10 centimeters per hour].

See page 672 of MnDOT Standard Specifications for Construction

Mix F: Custom Infiltration Basin Planting Soil

This mix is a homogenous soil mix of

  • 75 percent by weight loamy sand (USDA Soil Textural Classification based on grain size); and
  • 25 percent by weight MnDOT grade 2 compost MnDOT Grade 2 compost (See Specification 3890).

Loamy sand as determined by the USDA soil texture classification based on grain size. Loamy sand is defined as soil material that contains at the upper limit 85 to 90 percent sand, and the percentage of silt plus 1.5 times the percentage of clay is not less than 15. At the lower limit it contains not less than 70 to 85 percent sand, and the percentage of silt plus twice the percentage of clay does not exceed 30. In addition, the maximum particle size shall be less than 1-inch.


Links to related pages


Links to information on engineered media mixes outside Minnesota

Caution: The following information is not intended as recommendations for engineered media applications in Minnesota.

Media mixes for locations outside Minnesota

Links to information on engineered media mixes used outside Minnesota

Summary of recommended bioretention filter media mixes from worldwide sources
Link to this table.

Guideline Aggregate Organic Note
Auckland Regional Council (2003), Waitakere City Council (2004) Sandy loam, loamy sand, loam, loam/sand mix (35 - 60% v/v sand) Not specified Clay content < 25% v/v1
Prince George’s County, Maryland (2007) 50 - 60% v/v sand 20 - 30% v/v well aged leaf compost, 20 - 30% v/v topsoil2 Clay content < 5% v/v
The SUDS manual (Woods-Ballard et al. 2007) 35 - 60% v/v sand, 30 - 50% v/v silt 0 - 4% v/v organic matter 10 - 25% v/v clay content
Facility for Advanced Water Biofiltration (FAWB, 2009a) Washed, well graded sand with specified PSD band 3% w/w organic material Clay content < 3% w/w, top 100 mm to be ameliorated with organic matter and fertilizer
Seattle Public Utilities (2008) 60 - 65% v/v mineral aggregate, PSD limit (“clean sand” with 2 - 5% passing #200 sieve), U3 ≥ 4 35 - 40% v/v fine compost which has > 40% w/w organic matter content
Puget Sound Partnership (2009) 40% v/v compost, or 8 - 10% w/w organic matter
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (Hunt & Lord 2006) 85 - 88% v/v washed medium sand4 3 - 5% v/v organic matter 8 - 12% v/v silt and clay
City of Austin (2011) 70 - 80% v/v concrete sand5 20 - 30% v/v screened bulk topsoil2 70 - 90% sand content, 3 - 10% clay content, silt and clay content < 27% w/w. Warning not to use sandy loam (“red death”).6

1 % v/v is percent by volume; % w/w is percent by weight (mass)
2“Topsoil” is a non-technical term for the upper or outmost layer of soil, however there is no technical standard for topsoil.
3U, Coefficient of Uniformity = D60/D10, where D60 is particle diameter at 60% passing and D10 is particle diameter at 10% passing.
4A specific definition for “medium sand” was not identified. ASTM D2487-10 classifies coarse-grained sandsas those with > 50% retained on the (USA) No. 200 sieve (75 m) and > 50% of coarse fraction passing the No. 4 sieve (4.76 mm). Clean sands contain < 5% fines. Fine-grained soils are silts and clays whereby > 50% passes the No. 200 sieve.
5Concrete sand is described by ASTMD2487-10 as coarse sand that is retained by a (USA) No. 10 sieve (2.00mm)
6“Red death” is commercially available fill material in Austin marketed as sandy loam.

This page was last edited on 6 June 2022, at 12:06.