Assessment of the Viability of a Natural Urban Wetland in the Treatment of Stormwater
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Stormwater runoff generated from urban areas can be a source of contamination and may negatively impact receiving waters. Best management practices, including the use of treatment wetlands, are recommended to minimize impacts and maintain the quality of water bodies receiving stormwater discharge. This study focuses on the viability of a natural wetland in the treatment of urban runoff. Kuhn Marsh is a natural urban wetland located in Dartmouth, NS. The wetland is approximately 2 ha in size and the primary inlet is a stormwater outfall servicing a 28 ha urban drainage area. Kuhn Marsh has been receiving stormwater generated from the urban drainage area for decades. A wetland drainage area of approximately 9 ha contributes to surface runoff downstream of the wetland inlet. Project objectives are defined as: (i) characterization of the hydrology and hydraulics of the wetland system, (ii) characterization of contaminant fluxes within the wetland system, and (iii) analysis of the treatment performance of Kuhn Marsh. Research strategies used to achieve project objectives include physical and hydrologic characterization of the wetland and contributing watersheds as well as surface and ground water quality analysis. Monitoring was conducted in the wetland during both baseflow and stormflow conditions from May 2011 through October 2012, with the exception of November 2011 to January 2012. Surface water samples were analyzed in the laboratory for TSS, TOC, TN, TP, turbidity, E.coli, and a suite of heavy metals including Fe, Pb, Cu, Cd and Zn. In-situ surface water monitoring included DO, temperature, conductivity and pH. Groundwater samples were analyzed for E.coli and microbial source tracking was performed on all well samples in addition to samples from the inlet and outlet of the wetland. Results from the well samples and the wetland outlet were inconclusive, however the wetland inlet showed human source bacteria indicating potential sewer cross connections within the stormwater system. It was determined that the wetland is an area of groundwater discharge, with groundwater accounting for an average of 50% of the volume discharging through the outlet control structure. Largely due to groundwater influence, Kuhn Marsh shows no peak flow dampening or volume reduction between inlet and outlet. Minimal hydraulic retention times, between 2 and 4 hours, were calculated during stormflow conditions, indicating potential short circuiting of flows through the wetland. Wetland treatment performance was analyzed on a concentration and mass reduction basis and on the number samples that exceeded parameter guidelines at the outlet of the wetland. Guideline exceedances were reported for the majority of samples taken and increases in concentration between inlet and outlet resulted in a larger number of samples exceeding guidelines at the outlet. Despite dilution from groundwater discharge, minimal to no concentration reduction was reported between the inlet and outlet of the wetland. Mass reduction did not occur between the inlet and outlet and Kuhn Marsh was found to be a source of all contaminants sampled. Results of this study show that Kuhn Marsh is no longer acting as a reservoir for stormwater contaminants and, based on the fact that the wetland has been receiving stormwater input on the order of decades, study results may be indicative of the long-term treatment capacity of a stormwater treatment wetland. In the future, comprehensive sampling of groundwater is recommended to determine if contaminants are entering the wetland via groundwater discharge, and if possible, surface water sampling should be conducted on a finer scale to better estimate mass fluxes and contaminant loading rates.