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Concept: Stormwater


Drinking water contamination with poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) poses risks to the developmental, immune, metabolic, and endocrine health of consumers. We present a spatial analysis of 2013-2015 national drinking water PFAS concentrations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (US EPA) third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) program. The number of industrial sites that manufacture or use these compounds, the number of military fire training areas, and the number of wastewater treatment plants are all significant predictors of PFAS detection frequencies and concentrations in public water supplies. Among samples with detectable PFAS levels, each additional military site within a watershed’s eight-digit hydrologic unit is associated with a 20% increase in PFHxS, a 10% increase in both PFHpA and PFOA, and a 35% increase in PFOS. The number of civilian airports with personnel trained in the use of aqueous film-forming foams is significantly associated with the detection of PFASs above the minimal reporting level. We find drinking water supplies for 6 million U.S. residents exceed US EPA’s lifetime health advisory (70 ng/L) for PFOS and PFOA. Lower analytical reporting limits and additional sampling of smaller utilities serving <10000 individuals and private wells would greatly assist in further identifying PFAS contamination sources.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Sewage treatment, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Drinking water, Stormwater, Safe Drinking Water Act, Environmental protection


Managing excess nutrients remains a major obstacle to improving ecosystem service benefits of urban waters. To inform more ecologically based landscape nutrient management, we compared watershed inputs, outputs, and retention for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in seven subwatersheds of the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota. Lawn fertilizer and pet waste dominated N and P inputs, respectively, underscoring the importance of household actions in influencing urban watershed nutrient budgets. Watersheds retained only 22% of net P inputs versus 80% of net N inputs (watershed area-weighted averages, where net inputs equal inputs minus biomass removal) despite relatively low P inputs. In contrast to many nonurban watersheds that exhibit high P retention, these urban watersheds have high street density that enhanced transport of P-rich materials from landscapes to stormwater. High P exports in storm drainage networks and yard waste resulted in net P losses in some watersheds. Comparisons of the N/P stoichiometry of net inputs versus storm drain exports implicated denitrification or leaching to groundwater as a likely fate for retained N. Thus, these urban watersheds exported high quantities of N and P, but via contrasting pathways: P was exported primarily via stormwater runoff, contributing to surface water degradation, whereas N losses additionally contribute to groundwater pollution. Consequently, N management and P management require different strategies, with N management focusing on reducing watershed inputs and P management also focusing on reducing P movement from vegetated landscapes to streets and storm drains.

Concepts: Agriculture, Water, Water pollution, Mississippi River, Surface runoff, Stormwater, Retention basin, Storm drain


After a storm, water often runs off of impervious urban surfaces directly into aquatic ecosystems. This stormwater runoff is a cocktail of toxicants that have serious effects on the ecological integrity of aquatic habitats. Zebrafish that develop in stormwater runoff suffer from cardiovascular toxicity and impaired growth, but the effects of stormwater on fish sensory systems are not understood. Our study investigated the effect of stormwater on hair cells of the lateral line in larval zebrafish and coho salmon. Our results showed that although toxicants in stormwater did not kill zebrafish hair cells, these cells did experience damage. Zebrafish developing in stormwater also experienced impaired growth, fewer neuromasts in the lateral line, and fewer hair cells per neuromast. A similar reduction in neuromast number was observed in coho salmon reared in stormwater. Bioretention treatment, intended to filter out harmful constituents of stormwater, rescued the lateral line defects in zebrafish but not in coho salmon, suggesting that not all of the harmful constituents were removed by the filtration media and that salmonids are particularly sensitive to aquatic toxicants. Collectively, these data demonstrate that sub-lethal exposure to stormwater runoff negatively impacts a fish sensory system, which may have consequences for organismal fitness.

Concepts: Fish, Water, Water pollution, Auditory system, Sense, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Stormwater


Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI), or low impact development, encompasses a diverse and expanding portfolio of strategies to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff on natural systems. Benchmarks for GSI success are usually framed in terms of hydrology and water chemistry, with reduced flow and loadings of toxic chemical contaminants as primary metrics. Despite the central goal of protecting aquatic species abundance and diversity, the effectiveness of GSI treatments in maintaining diverse assemblages of sensitive aquatic taxa has not been widely evaluated. In the present study we characterized the baseline toxicity of untreated urban runoff from a highway in Seattle, WA, across six storm events. For all storms, first flush runoff was toxic to the daphniid Ceriodaphnia dubia, causing up to 100% mortality or impairing reproduction among survivors. We then evaluated whether soil media used in bioretention, a conventional GSI method, could reduce or eliminate toxicity to juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) as well as their macroinvertebrate prey, including cultured C. dubia and wild-collected mayfly nymphs (Baetis spp.). Untreated highway runoff was generally lethal to salmon and invertebrates, and this acute mortality was eliminated when the runoff was filtered through soil media in bioretention columns. Soil treatment also protected against sublethal reproductive toxicity in C. dubia. Thus, a relatively inexpensive GSI technology can be highly effective at reversing the acutely lethal and sublethal effects of urban runoff on multiple aquatic species.

Concepts: Water pollution, Salmon, Oncorhynchus, Surface runoff, Columbia River, Stormwater, Coho salmon, Low impact development


Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) occur in combined sewer systems when sewage and stormwater runoff are released into water bodies potentially contaminating water sources. CSOs are often caused by heavy precipitation and are expected to increase with increasing extreme precipitation associated with climate change.

Concepts: Water, Climate, Water pollution, Surface runoff, Stormwater, Sanitary sewer, Clean Water Act, Sanitary sewer overflow


Abstract Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations have the potential to increase air and water pollution in communities located near UOG operations. Every stage of UOG operation from well construction to extraction, operations, transportation, and distribution can lead to air and water contamination. Hundreds of chemicals are associated with the process of unconventional oil and natural gas production. In this work, we review the scientific literature providing evidence that adult and early life exposure to chemicals associated with UOG operations can result in adverse reproductive health and developmental effects in humans. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) [including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene (BTEX) and formaldehyde] and heavy metals (including arsenic, cadmium and lead) are just a few of the known contributors to reduced air and water quality that pose a threat to human developmental and reproductive health. The developing fetus is particularly sensitive to environmental factors, which include air and water pollution. Research shows that there are critical windows of vulnerability during prenatal and early postnatal development, during which chemical exposures can cause potentially permanent damage to the growing embryo and fetus. Many of the air and water pollutants found near UOG operation sites are recognized as being developmental and reproductive toxicants; therefore there is a compelling need to increase our knowledge of the potential health consequences for adults, infants, and children from these chemicals through rapid and thorough health research investigation.

Concepts: Oxygen, Human, Water, Water pollution, Benzene, Volatile organic compound, Water quality, Stormwater


Many women of reproductive age in the United States are marginally iodine deficient, perhaps because the salt in processed foods is not iodized. Iodine deficiency, per se, can interfere with normal brain development in their offspring; in addition, it increases vulnerability to the effects of certain environmental pollutants, such as nitrate, thiocyanate, and perchlorate. Although pregnant and lactating women should take a supplement containing adequate iodide, only about 15% do so. Such supplements, however, may not contain enough iodide and may not be labeled accurately. The American Thyroid Association recommends that pregnant and lactating women take a supplement with adequate iodide. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant and lactating women also avoid exposure to excess nitrate, which would usually occur from contaminated well water, and thiocyanate, which is in cigarette smoke. Perchlorate is currently a candidate for regulation as a water pollutant. The Environmental Protection Agency should proceed with appropriate regulation, and the Food and Drug Administration should address the mislabeling of the iodine content of prenatal/lactation supplements.

Concepts: Ammonia, Chernobyl disaster, United States, Pollution, Iodine, Environmentalism, Stormwater


Catchment urbanization perturbs the water and sediment budgets of streams, degrades stream health and function, and causes a constellation of flow, water quality and ecological symptoms collectively known as the urban stream syndrome. Low-impact development (LID) technologies address the hydrologic symptoms of the urban stream syndrome by mimicking natural flow paths and restoring a natural water balance. Over annual time scales, the volumes of storm water that should be infiltrated and harvested can be estimated from a catchment-scale water-balance given local climate conditions and pre-urban land cover. For all but the wettest regions of the world, the water balance predicts a much larger volume of storm water runoff should be harvested than infiltrated to restore stream hydrology to a pre-urban state. Efforts to prevent or reverse hydrologic symptoms associated with the urban stream syndrome will therefore require: (1) selecting the right mix of LID technologies that provide regionally tailored ratios of storm water harvesting and infiltration; (2) integrating these LID technologies into next-generation drainage systems; (3) maximizing potential co-benefits including water supply augmentation, flood protection, improved water quality, and urban amenities; and (4) long-term hydrologic monitoring to evaluate the efficacy of LID interventions.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Water management, Hydrology, River, Surface runoff, Water supply, Stormwater


Impervious surfaces degrade urban water quality, but their over-coverage has not explained the persistent water quality variation observed among catchments with similar rates of imperviousness. Land-cover patterns likely explain much of this variation, although little is known about how they vary among watersheds. Our goal was to analyze a series of urban catchments within a range of impervious cover to evaluate how land-cover varies among them. We then highlight examples from the literature to explore the potential effects of land-cover pattern variability for urban watershed management. High-resolution (1 m(2)) land-cover data were used to quantify 23 land-cover pattern and stormwater infrastructure metrics within 32 catchments across the Triangle Region of North Carolina. These metrics were used to analyze variability in land-cover patterns among the study catchments. We used hierarchical clustering to organize the catchments into four groups, each with a distinct landscape pattern. Among these groups, the connectivity of combined land-cover patches accounted for 40 %, and the size and shape of lawns and buildings accounted for 20 %, of the overall variation in land-cover patterns among catchments. Storm water infrastructure metrics accounted for 8 % of the remaining variation. Our analysis demonstrates that land-cover patterns do vary among urban catchments, and that trees and grass (lawns) are divergent cover types in urban systems. The complex interactions among land-covers have several direct implications for the ongoing management of urban watersheds.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Hydrology, Road, Infrastructure, Environmental soil science, Stormwater, Impervious surface


Urban ecosystems have traditionally been considered to be pervious features of our cities. Their hydrological properties have largely been investigated at the landscape scale and in comparison with other urban land use types. However, hydrological properties can vary at smaller scales depending upon changes in soil, surface litter and vegetation components. Management practices can directly and indirectly affect each of these components and the overall habitat complexity, ultimately affecting hydrological processes. This study aims to investigate the influence that habitat components and habitat complexity have upon key hydrological processes and the implications for urban habitat management. Using a network of urban parks and remnant nature reserves in Melbourne, Australia, replicate plots representing three types of habitat complexity were established: low-complexity parks, high-complexity parks, and high-complexity remnants. Saturated soil hydraulic conductivity in low-complexity parks was an order of magnitude lower than that measured in the more complex habitat types, due to fewer soil macropores. Conversely, soil water holding capacity in low-complexity parks was significantly higher compared to the two more complex habitat types. Low-complexity parks would generate runoff during modest precipitation events, whereas high-complexity parks and remnants would be able to absorb the vast majority of rainfall events without generating runoff. Litter layers on the soil surface would absorb most of precipitation events in high-complexity parks and high-complexity remnants. To minimize the incidence of stormwater runoff from urban ecosystems, land managers could incrementally increase the complexity of habitat patches, by increasing canopy density and volume, preserving surface litter and maintaining soil macropore structure.

Concepts: Water, Water pollution, Soil, Hydrology, Surface runoff, Land use, Stormwater, Landscape