image of eutrophication
Photo of a eutrophic lake, a result of excessive phosphorus loading.

The United States Geological Survey states: "Phosphorus is a common constituent of agricultural fertilizers, manure, [urban runoff], and organic wastes in sewage and industrial effluent. It is an essential element for plant life, but when there is too much of it in water, it can speed up eutrophication (a reduction in dissolved oxygen in water bodies caused by an increase of mineral and organic nutrients) of rivers and lakes." Phosphorus in stormwater runoff can generally be divided into the fraction associated with sediment, called particulate phosphorus, and the fraction dissolved in water, called dissolved or soluble phosphorus. Total phosphorus is the sum of particulate and dissolved phosphorus and includes the total amount of phosphorus in both organic and inorganic forms. Orthophosphate measures phosphorus that is most immediately biologically available. Most of the soluble phosphorus in stormwater is usually present in the orthophosphate form.

This article provides information on phosphorus in urban stormwater, including a discussion of sources of phosphorus and management strategies for minimizing phosphorus loading from urban stormwater runoff to surface water. For more information on phosphorus in water, click on these links: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5].

Source and concentrations of phosphorus in urban stormwater

Sources of phosphorus in urban runoff include plant and leaf litter, soil particles, pet waste, road salt, fertilizer, and atmospheric deposition of particles. Lawns and roads account for the greatest loading. For example, Waschbusch et. al (1999) found that lawns and roads contributed about 80 percent of total and dissolved phosphorus loading. Land use affects the contribution from different sources, with lawns and leaf litter being more important in residential areas and roads being more important in commercial and industrial areas. Atmospheric sources of particles may derive from outside of the river basin (Hopke et al. 1980; Tipping et al., 2014).

Dissolved phosphorus typically accounts for about 45 percent of total phosphorus, but this fraction varies with the source of phosphorus. The dissolved fraction may be as high as 50 percent when the source is plant litter and lawns, while the dissolved fraction may be as low as 25 percent when the source is predominantly roads (Waschbusch et. al, 1999). For more information on phosphorus in urban stormwater, see the section on contribution of tree leaves, seeds, and flowers to phosphorus in urban runoff.

Concentrations of phosphorus in urban stormwater runoff are highly variable. Concentrations are similar across different land uses. Data below are from the International Stormwater Database, Version 3 (2008). For additional information, Lin (2004) provides a good review of published event mean concentration data.

Land use Median (mg/L) Minimum (mg/L) Maximum (mg/L) Number of observations
Commercial 0.2 < 0.01 4.27 56
Industrial 0.23 < 0.02 7.9 57
Residential 0.26 < 0.01 19.9 148
Open space 0.13 < 0.01 0.76 15
Native prairie 0.3 0.1 0.5

Total phosphorus (TP) export varies with the amount of runoff and is calculated by multiplying the TP concentration by the volume of runoff. The Simple Method can be used to estimate TP loading as a function of different land uses. Export coefficients are presented in the literature for different land uses. The data are highly variable as a result of the differences in impervious surface, even within specific land uses. Typical annual TP export coefficients are shown below (data adapted from studies cited in Lin (2004) and Jeje (2006)).

Land use Range (lb/ac/yr) Recommended (lb/ac/yr)
Native grass 0.04-0.32 0.10
Forest 0.04-0.27 0.13
Pasture 0.27-0.89 0.70
Corn/soybean 1.8-3.4 2.2
Mixed agriculture 0.44-0.98 0.70
Low density residential 1.1
High density residential 1.3
Commercial 2.0
Highways 3.1

Meeting TP water quality targets

Information on this page can be used to help meet water quality targets. Water quality targets are established for various purposes including meeting Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements, meeting local water quality goals or requirements, and meeting non-regulatory targets. CWA requirements include antidegradation, TMDL limits, and NPDES permit requirements. Each of these are described below.

Information: Note that information presented in the Stormwater Manual can be used to meet NPDES permit requirements. This includes information on all BMPs discussed in the Manual unless otherwise noted. Check with MPCA's Stormwater Program for applicability of information not contained in the Manual, including BMPs and BMP credits.

Antidegradation

Water quality standards include an antidegradation policy and implementation method. The water quality standards regulation requires States and Tribes to establish a three-tiered antidegradation program to protect existing water quality and water uses in receiving waters (see [6]).

Compliance with Minimum Control Measure (MCM) 5 of the MS4 permit constitutes compliance with antidegradation requirements. The permit requires no net increase in discharges of volume, total phosphorus (TP) and total suspended solids (TSS) for new development, while a reduction in these are required for redevelopment projects covered under the permit. Practices that infiltrate or capture and reuse stormwater runoff are typically used to meet these permit requirements because they help meet the volume requirements.

Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)

The 2016 impaired water list includes 358 lakes or reservoirs and 44 river or stream stretches impaired for nutrrient/eutrophication biological indicators. Phosphorus is likely to be the surrogate pollutant for most of these impairments. Other impairments, such as those for dissolved oxygen, may also be associated with excessive TP loads. Click here to link to MPCA's impaired waters website.

The MS4 permit requires permittees to demonstrate progress toward meeting applicable Wasteload Allocations in U.S. EPA-approved TMDLs. General information on meeting TMDL requirements in NPDES permits is found here, while reporting requirements are found here. Below is additional information that may be useful.

Permittees with required reductions in TP loading should consider implementing a treatment train approach, which is discussed in greater detail below.

Stormwater management for phosphorus

photo illustrating a watershed scale treatment train approach using a multi-BMP approach to managing the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff.
Watershed scale stormwater management approach using a multi-BMP approach to managing the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff. The BMP sequence starts with pollution prevention and progresses through source control, on-site treatment, and regional treatment before the runoff water is discharged to a receiving water. On-site and regional practices treat stormwater runoff and can be incorporated into a stormwater treatment train.

Management of urban stormwater to control or reduce TP concentrations and loading should focus on identifying the most important sources and employing specific practices to address those sources. If significant reductions in TP loading are required or desired, a treatment train approach should be utilized. The treatment train approach for TP focuses on implementing the following hierarchy of practices:

  • pollution prevention and source control
  • pre-treatment for structural BMPs
  • infiltration
  • settling
  • filtration

Construction stormwater

Data on TP loading from construction stormwater sites is limited. TSS concentrations in runoff from construction sites typically greatly exceed concentrations from other urban land uses and generally exceed 1000 milligrams per liter. Sediment export from construction sites typically ranges from 2000 to 16000 pounds per acre per year (Line et al., 2009; Line et al., 2011; Wolman and Schick, 1967). However, one study in Washington state showed TP concentrations ranged from 0.01 to 0.16 milligrams per liter in runoff from construction sites, with a median of 0.095 milligrams per liter. These are relatively low concentrations considering the amount of sediment leaving construction sites. Other potential sources of phosphorus on a construction site result from land treatment practices employed by the construction site personnel, such as fertilizers, tackifiers, hydroseed, wood mulch, or other types of applications. These products could be evaluated for their phosphorus content. Erosion and sediment control practices described in this manual should be employed at construction sites.

Pollution prevention and source control

These practices reduce the amount of TP generated or remove TP prior to it being entrained in runoff. These are summarized below for residential, municipal, and industrial sources.

Prevention practices for residential areas

The following table summarizes residential prevention practices that are effective at reducing TP concentrations. The table indicates the relative effectiveness of each practice and provides a short description of the practice. TP removal efficiencies are not established for these BMPs.

Residential pollution prevention methods effective for controlling or reducing phosphorus.
Link to this table

Practice Relative effectiveness Method Image1
Fertilizer and pesticide management High Reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizer and pesticides by practicing natural lawn care, planting native vegetation, and limiting chemical use; follow Minnesota Statutes Chapter 18C and federal regulatory requirements on fertilizer and pesticide storage and application if used.
Fertilizer pesticide management.jpg
Litter and animal waste control High Properly dispose of pet waste and litter in a timely manner and according to local ordinance requirements.
Litter animal waste control.jpg
Yard Waste Management High Prevent yard waste from entering storm sewer systems and water bodies by either composting or using curbside pickup services and avoiding accumulation of yard waste on impervious surfaces; keep grass clippings and leaves out of the street.
Yard waste management.jpg
Better Car and Equipment Washing Moderate Wash cars less often and on grassy areas using phosphorus free detergents and non-toxic cleaning products or use commercial car washes to prevent dirty wash water from flowing to storm sewer systems and water bodies.
Better car washing.jpg
Septic tank maintenance High
Native Landscaping High Reduce turf areas by planting native species to reduce and filter pollutant-laden runoff and prevent the spread of invasive, non-native plant species into the storm sewer system.
Native landscaping.jpg
Better Sidewalk and Driveway Deicing Moderate Reduce or eliminate the need for deicing products by manually clearing sidewalks and driveways prior to deicer use; use environmentally-friendly deicing products when possible, apply sparingly and store properly if used.
Better sidewalk driveway deicing.jpg
Exposed Soil Repair High Use native vegetation or grass to cover and stabilize exposed soil on lawns to prevent sediment wash off.
Exposed soil repair.jpg
Healthy Lawns Moderate Maintain thick grass planted in organic-rich soil to a height of at least 3 inches to prevent soil erosion, filter stormwater contaminants, and absorb airborne pollutants; limit or eliminate chemical use and water and repair lawn as needed
Healthy lawns.JPG

1 Photo credits


Prevention practices for municipalities

The following table summarizes municipal prevention practices that are effective at reducing TP concentrations. The table indicates the relative effectiveness of each practice and provides a short description of the practice. TP removal efficiencies are not established for these BMPs.

Municipal prevention practices for TP.
Link to this table

Practice Relative effectiveness Method Image1
Proper Vehicle Management High Ensure that vehicles are fueled, maintained, washed and stored in a manner that prevents the release of harmful fluids, including oil, antifreeze, gasoline, battery acid, hydraulic and transmission fluids, and cleaning solutions.
Proper vehicle management.jpg
Better Turf Management High Ensure that mowing, fertilization, pesticide application, and irrigation are completed in ways that will prevent or reduce grass clippings, sediment, and chemicals from entering storm sewer systems; use native vegetation where possible.
Better turf management.jpg
Sanitary Sewer Maintenance High Regularly inspect and flush sanitary pipes to ensure that there are no leaks in the system and that the system is properly functioning.
Sanitary storm sewer maintenance.jpg
Litter and Animal Waste Control High Mandate litter and pet waste cleanup within the community and control waste-generating wildlife, such as geese; provide waste containers for litter and pet waste in public areas.
Litter animal waste control.jpg
Temporary Construction Sediment Control Moderate Implement and encourage practices to retain sediment within construction project area; see Temporary Construction Erosion and Sediment Control Factsheets for additional information
Temporary construction sediment control.jpg
Wind Erosion Control Moderate Institute a local program for wetting of open construction surfaces and other sources for windblown pollutants.
Wind erosion control.jpg
Streambank Stabilization2 Moderate Repair erosion occurring on a streambank of lakeshore in a timely manner; inspect bank areas for ice damage in the spring.
Streambank stabilization.jpg
Material Storage Control Moderate Reduce or eliminate spill and leakage loss by properly inspecting, containing, and storing hazardous materials and having a cleanup plan that can be quickly and efficiently implemented.
Material storage control.jpg
Dumpster and landfill management Moderate Ensure that contaminated material is contained to prevent solid and/or liquid waste from being washed into storm sewer systems or water bodies.
Dumpster and landfill management.JPG
Better Street and Parking Lot Cleaning Moderate Maintain streets and parking lots frequently and especially in the spring by sweeping, picking up litter, and repairing deterioration; pressure wash pavement only as needed and avoid using cleaning agents.
Better street parking lot cleaning.jpg
Storm Sewer System Maintenance Moderate Regularly clean debris from storm sewer inlets, remove sediment from catch basin sumps, and remove any illicit connections to storm sewer systems.
Storm sewer system maintenance.jpg
Public Education Moderate Label storm drains to indicate that no dumping is allowed and institute pollution prevention programs to educate and implement needed community practices.
Public education.jpg
Staff, Employee, and Volunteer Education Moderate Provide internal training for staff and provide direction to hired employees or volunteers regarding pollution prevention techniques to be used during work activites.
Staff employee volunteer education.jpg

1 Photo credits
2Reductions in pollutant loading associated with this BMP are not eligible for credit toward NPDES permit requirements unless the stabilization is above the ordinary high water mark (i.e. the work is not completed within a Water of the State), prior to a permittee's discharge, and the load reduced from this action is included in a Wasteload Allocation in a U.S. EPA-approved TMDL.


Prevention practices for industrial sources

The following table summarizes industrial prevention practices that are effective at reducing TP concentrations. The table indicates the relative effectiveness of each practice and provides a short description of the practice. TP removal efficiencies are not established for these BMPs.

Industrial prevention practices for TP.
Link to this table

Practice Relative effectiveness Method Image1
Better Turf Management High Ensure that mowing, fertilization, pesticide application, and irrigation are completed in ways that will prevent or reduce grass clippings, sediment, and chemicals from entering storm sewer systems; use native vegetation where possible.
Better turf management.jpg
Proper Vehicle Management High Ensure that vehicles are fueled, maintained, washed and stored in a manner that prevents the release of harmful fluids, including oil, antifreeze, gasoline, battery acid, hydraulic and transmission fluids, and cleaning solutions.
Proper vehicle management.jpg
Sanitary Sewer Maintenance High Regularly inspect and flush sanitary pipes to ensure that there are no leaks in the system and that the system is properly functioning.
Sanitary storm sewer maintenance.jpg
Temporary Construction Sediment Control Moderate Implement and encourage practices to retain sediment within construction project area; see Temporary Construction Erosion and Sediment Control Factsheets for additional information
Temporary construction sediment control.jpg
Wind Erosion Control Moderate Institute a local program for wetting of open construction surfaces and other sources for windblown pollutants.
Wind erosion control.jpg
Material Storage Control Moderate Reduce or eliminate spill and leakage loss by properly inspecting, containing, and storing hazardous materials and having a cleanup plan that can be quickly and efficiently implemented.
Material storage control.jpg
Dumpster and landfill management Moderate Ensure that contaminated material is contained to prevent solid and/or liquid waste from being washed into storm sewer systems or water bodies.
Dumpster and landfill management.JPG
Better Street and Parking Lot Cleaning Moderate Maintain streets and parking lots frequently and especially in the spring by sweeping, picking up litter, and repairing deterioration; pressure wash pavement only as needed and avoid using cleaning agents.
Better street parking lot cleaning.jpg
Storm Sewer System Maintenance Moderate Regularly clean debris from storm sewer inlets, remove sediment from catch basin sumps, and remove any illicit connections to storm sewer systems.
Storm sewer system maintenance.jpg

1 Photo credits


Street sweeping

Street sweeping can be an effective practice for reducing sediment loading to surface water, which in turn reduces loading of particulate phosphorus. This Manual currently has a short page describing street sweeping practices as they relate to phosphorus management. The page includes a link to a calculator developed at the University of Minnesota. The calculator estimates reductions in wet and dry solids as a function of different management practices.

Several articles in the literature present results from street sweeping studies. Examples include the following.

  • Selbig and Bannerman (2007) discuss changes in pollutant loading for regenerative-air, vacuum-assist, high-frequency broom, and low-frequency broom sweeping practices.
  • Law et al. (2008) found for a given set of assumptions and sweeping frequencies, it is expected that the range in pollutant removal rates from street sweeping for total solids was 3 to 8 percent, with the lower end representing monthly street sweeping by a mechanical street sweeper and the upper end the pollutant removal efficiencies using regenerative air/vacuum street sweeper at weekly frequencies.
  • Sutherland (2011) provides a comprehensive summary of street sweeping, including information on effectiveness of different sweepers and factors affecting the performance of street sweeping.

Pretreatment

Pretreatment is needed to protect infiltration and filtration BMPs from the build-up of trash, gross solids, and particulate matter. When the velocity of stormwater decreases, sediment and solids drop out. If pretreatment is not provided, this process will occur in the infiltration or filtration cell, resulting in long-term clogging and poor aesthetics. Therefore, pretreatment is a required part of the design for infiltration and filtration BMPs. There are three typical methods for pretreatment: vegetated filter strips (VFS), forebays, and vegetated swales. These are discussed in the section on pretreatment.

Infiltration

Infiltration practices are structural Best Management Practices (BMPs) designed to capture stormwater runoff and allow the captured water to infiltrate into soils underlying the BMP. Infiltration BMPs are designed to capture a particular amount of runoff. For example, the construction stormwater permit requires that post-construction BMPs capture the first inch of runoff from new impervious surfaces, assuming there are no constraints to infiltration. BMPs designed to meet the construction stormwater permit are required to infiltrate captured water within 48 hours, with 24 hours recommended when discharges are to a trout stream.

TP removal is assumed to be 100 percent for all water that infiltrates. Any water bypassing the BMP does not receive treatment. Examples of infiltration BMPs, with links to appropriate sections in the Manual, include the following.

Additional BMPs that result in infiltration include stormwater and rainwater harvest with irrigation and impervious surface disconnection. For these BMPs infiltration typically occurs into turf or other vegetated areas. Disconnection of impervious surface does not qualify for credits for meeting the Construction Stormwater permit. Harvest BMPs do qualify for credit because they capture an instantaneous volume of water.

The links above take you to the main page for each BMP. Each BMP section has a page on pollutant credits. These credit pages provide information on runoff volume and pollutant removal for the BMP, including credits that can be applied to meet a performance goal such as a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).

In soils where there are constraints on infiltration, BMPs may be designed with underdrains. Unless the BMP is lined, some water will infiltrate through the bottom and sides of the BMP. TP removal for the portion of captured runoff that infiltrates is 100 percent. Water draining to the underdrain undergoes some treatment. These BMPs are discussed in more detail in the filtration section below.

Settling practices

Information: Note that we refer to constructed ponds and constructed wetlands in this section. Natural ponds and wetlands are not stormwater treatment practices and are therefore not included in this discussion.

If prevention, source control and infiltration practices cannot fully meet protection or restoration targets for stormwater, settling and filtration practices may be used. Settling practices include constructed stormwater ponds, including variants, and constructed stormwater wetlands, including variants. Manufactured devices and forebays are both settling practices but are primarily used for pretreatment.

Constructed ponds are effective at removing particulate material, with TSS removal rates ranging from 60 to 90 percent depending on the design. Constructed wetlands are also very effective at removing TSS, with removal rates ranging from 39 to 81 percent depending on the design. Assuming particulate phosphorus accounts for about 55 percent of total phosphorus (TP), and no dissolved phosphorus is removed by constructed ponds or constructed wetlands, TP removal is approximately 50 percent in ponds and 40 percent in wetlands. Poorly designed or poorly functioning ponds and wetlands can export dissolved phosphorus.

Information on design, construction, operation and maintenance, credits, and other characteristics of these BMPs can be found on the main pages for constructed stormwater ponds and constructed stormwater wetlands.

Filtration practices

Filtration practices are typically used when infiltration practices are not feasible, such as areas with low infiltration soils or shallow bedrock (see section on infiltration constraints. Filtration practices include bioretention with underdrains, media filters, and swales. Vegetated filter strips are often used as a pretreatment practice.

Sand filters have removal rates of about 50 percent for TP. This is all considered to be particulate phosphorus. Amendments can be added to sand filters to remove dissolved phosphorus. This manual provides a credit of 60 percent removal of dissolved phosphorus, thus giving a TP removal of 77 percent for amended sand filters.

Filtration practices that utilize engineered media (bioretention, swales) have different removal efficiencies depending on the media and whether the media has been amended to remove dissolved phosphorus. Media that have high organic matter content will not effectively retain phosphorus and can leach phosphorus. These include Mixes A, B, E, and F. Mixes C and D have low organic matter contents and will attenuate phosphorus. The following sections in this manual are useful for determining the effectiveness of filtration practices with engineered media.

Caution: Green roofs do not receive a phosphorus credit because they typically leach phosphorus in the first years after construction. They may retain phosphorus as they age.

Information on design, construction, operation and maintenance, credits, and other characteristics of these BMPs can be found on the main pages for media filters and swales, green roofs, and bioretention.

Stormwater design recommendations to enhance phosphorus removal

Summary of stormwater design recommendations to enhance phosphorus removal.
Link to this table

BMP Design Design recommendations
Infiltration
Filtration (includes practices with an underdrain)
  • Organic filters are a source of soluble phosphorus and should not be used
  • Practices with engineered media are acceptable when the appropriate filter media is used
  • Employ finer-grained media in the filter bed with a small diameter (15 microns), or provide a finer-grained layer at mid-depth in the filter profile
  • The process for pretreatment and/or filtration should extend from 36 to 48 hours, where possible
  • Filters should be oriented to provide maximum solar exposure
  • Wet swales are not recommended because they may export phosphorus
  • Open channels should be designed to promote maximum sediment retention
Stormwater ponds1
  • Pond aeration is encouraged
  • Design wet ponds with a depth no greater than 10 feet to prevent stratification and potential release of phosphorus from bottom sediments
  • Avoid the use of dry or dry extended detention ponds
  • Designers should consider the snowmelt runoff volume and design ponds for seasonal operation
  • Use a surface or mid-depth release from the pond
  • Landscape pond to discourage geese
  • Add shallow benches and wetland areas to enhance the plankton community
  • Pond sediments may be amended to retain phosphorus (e.g. iron, aluminum)
Constructed Stormwater wetlands
  • Pond/ wetland system is the preferred wetland design
  • Use a surface or mid-depth release from the wetland
  • Maximize surface micro-topography
  • Landscape wetland to discourage geese

1The recommendations for constructed ponds are from the original Minnesota Stormwater Manual. MPCA anticipates updating this information in the near future.


References

This page was last modified on 31 December 2018, at 08:12.

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