Research Reports

Iron-Enhanced Swale Ditch Checks for Phosphorus Retention

Principal Investigator:

Poornima Natarajan, John S Gulliver, Peter Weiss

July 2019

Report no. MnDOT 2019-27

Projects: Iron-Enhanced Swale Ditch Checks for Phosphorus Removal

Topics: Environment

Iron-enhanced ditch checks in roadside swales were developed specifically for capturing dissolved phosphorus and dissolved metals from roadway runoff in both urban and agricultural environments. One iron-enhanced ditch check constructed along CR 15 (formerly TH 5) in Stillwater, Minnesota, was monitored during 40 storm events from 2016 to 2018. The iron-enhanced sand filter insert generally captured phosphate, yielding lower phosphate concentrations and mass load reductions that varied between 22% and 50% during several events. However, the cumulative phosphate retention in the filter insert decreased from 42% in 2015 to 30% in 2016, 25% in 2017, and 23% in 2018. The filter insert was not an effective retention device for dissolved copper and zinc. The overall ditch check's performance, although unexceptional in 2016 and 2017, appeared to improve in 2018. Sampling issues likely contributed to the low performance measured until 2017. The 2018 water sample collection method provided a better estimate of the ditch check's performance and roughly matched that of the filter insert. Synthetic runoff testing supported the level of treatment achieved during storm events. Phosphate load from the degrading topsoil and the overutilization of the bottom filter media most likely affected overall treatment performance. Design improvements and recommended maintenance actions were developed based on the lessons learned from field monitoring. The iron-enhanced ditch check can improve net phosphate retention through roadside swales, as long as the recommended maintenance actions are performed as scheduled.

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