Soil beneath a stormwater infiltration basin receiving runoff from a 22.7 ha predominantly residential watershed in central Florida, USA, was amended using biosorption activated media (BAM) to study the effectiveness of this technology in reducing inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus to groundwater. The functionalized soil amendment BAM consists of a 1.0:1.9:4.1 mixture (by volume) of tire crumb (to increase sorption capacity), silt and clay (to increase soil moisture retention), and sand (to promote sufficient infiltration), which was applied to develop a prototype stormwater infiltration basin utilizing nutrient reduction and flood control sub-basins. Comparison of nitrate/chloride (NO3-/Cl-) ratios for the shallow groundwater indicate that prior to using BAM, NO3- concentrations were substantially influenced by nitrification or variations in NO3- input. In contrast, for the prototype basin utilizing BAM, NO3-/Cl- ratios indicate minor nitrification and NO3- losses with the exception of one summer sample that indicated a 45% loss. Biogeochemical indicators (denitrifier activity derived from real-time polymerase chain reaction and variations in major ions, nutrients, dissolved and soil gases, and stable isotopes) suggest NO3- losses are primarily attributable to denitrification, whereas dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium is a minor process. Denitrification was likely occurring intermittently in anoxic microsites in the unsaturated zone, which was enhanced by increased soil moisture within the BAM layer and resultant reductions in surface/subsurface oxygen exchange that produced conditions conducive to increased denitrifier activity. Concentrations of total dissolved phosphorus and orthophosphate (PO43-) were reduced by more than 70% in unsaturated zone soil water, with the largest decreases in the BAM layer where sorption was the most likely mechanism for removal. Post-BAM PO43-/Cl- ratios for shallow groundwater indicate predominantly minor increases and decreases in PO43- with the exception of one summer sample that indicated a 50% loss. Differences in nutrient variations between the unsaturated zone and shallow groundwater may be the result of the intensity and duration of nutrient removal processes and mixing ratios with water that had not undergone significant chemical changes. Observed nitrogen and phosphorus losses demonstrate the potential, as well as future research needs to improve performance, of the prototype stormwater infiltration basin using BAM for providing passive, economical, stormwater nutrient-treatment technology to support green infrastructure.
Additional publication details
Nutrient removal using biosorption activated media: preliminary biogeochemical assessment of an innovative stormwater infiltration basin