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Storm water runoff from buildings and paved surfaces was considered harmless and was
conducted without treatment, and as rapidly as possible, to receiving streams, rivers, and
lakes. However, almost three-quarters of the U.S. population lives on only about 7% of the
land. And as our urban watersheds become more and more paved and/or roofed, two
problems develop:
A heavy rain greatly increases peaks in stream flows (because less rain is retained for later,
slower release by the action of unpaved surfaces); this accentuated peak-valley pattern of
flows makes life more difficult for aquatic flora and fauna.
Pollutants (especially those accumulated on roadways) are washed into streams; oil,
gasoline, antifreeze, fragments of brake linings and tires, and so on are especially
unwelcome deposits.
Some design strategies to minimize these impacts, such as roof retention, porous pavement,
and on-site groundwater
recharging, were discussed in Rainwater and Site Planning.

designed to separate
both floating oily
contaminants and
sediment from storm
Rather like a
septic tank, two
chambers are
separated by a
baffle. Oil scum
and sediment
remain in the first

In a moderate storm,
water rises above the top
of the inlet pipe, greatly
reducing velocity and
turbulence within the first
chamber, encouraging
sediment to precipitate to
increases, rising
above the low-flow control
(second chamber), oily
contaminants accumulated
from previous storms float
upwards, and more
sediment falls out.

At the height of storm water

flow, usually designed for a
10-year storm, the high-level
outlet begins to discharge.
Sometimes a peak flow
bypass is used. Oily scum
and sediment continue to be
the flow
in the
outflow is controlled,
lessening the strain on the
storm drainage system.

Cleanout, at the lowest

water levels, is best
done by a vacuum
truck. As the grit
chamber empties, oily
liquids and floating
debris drain back
toward the inlet and
can beofremoved
Note that the bottom
the baffle
with the sediment.
between the chambers
remains submerged.

Phytoremediation - science of cleaning polluted soil and water with plants.

- extracts, degrades, or contains contaminants.
Plants that extract - take up and accumulate contaminants in their shoots and leaves;
when the vegetation is removed
from the site, so is the contaminant.
Plants that degrade- break down contaminants (such as hydrocarbons and other organic
compounds) until they are no
longer toxic. Some plants degrade toxins in their root
zone, whereas others use elements of organic
toxins as food.
Plants that contain - essentially immobilize toxins in long-term storage. However, when
the plants die and decompose,
long-lived toxins may be released.
For treating storm water, plants are typically incorporated in drainage strips between
paved parking areas. The mix of plants is similar to those cited earlier in wetland
construction, with sedges and rushes especially effective at cleansing Shade trees could
add welcome summer thermal benefits, as well as intercepting and storing some pollutants.
The capacity of the planting strip should be sufficient to intercept the first flush of rain,
which carries the heaviest load of pollutants. Underground drains intercept excess runoff
and lead to a capture chamber where floatable contaminants can be periodically removed.
The screened, regulated flow from the capture basin will be much gentler on the receiving