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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Wetlands and Aquatic Processes

High Pollutant Removal Efficacy of a Large Constructed Wetland Leads to Receiving Stream Improvements


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 6, p. 2046-2055
    Received: Jan 12, 2012
    Published: November 5, 2012

    * Corresponding author(s): mallinm@uncw.edu
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  1. Michael A. Mallin *a,
  2. Janie A. McAuliffea,
  3. Matthew R. McIvera,
  4. David Mayesb and
  5. Michael A. Hansonc
  1. a Center for Marine Science, Univ. of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28409
    b Wilmington Stormwater Services, Wilmington, NC 28402
    c Dewberry, Raleigh, NC 27607. Assigned to Associate Editor Sue Newman


Hewletts Creek, in Wilmington, North Carolina, drains a large suburban watershed and as such is affected by high fecal bacteria loads and periodic algal blooms from nutrient loading. During 2007, a 3.1-ha wetland was constructed to treat stormwater runoff from a 238-ha watershed within the Hewletts Creek drainage. A rain event sampling program was performed in 2009–2010 to evaluate the efficacy of the wetland in reducing pollutant loads from the stormwater runoff passing through the wetland. During the eight storms sampled, the wetland greatly moderated the hydrograph and retained and/or removed 50 to 75% of the inflowing stormwater volume. High removal rates of fecal coliform bacteria were achieved, with an average load reduction of 99% and overall concentration reduction of >90%. Particularly high (>90%) reductions of ammonium and orthophosphate loads also occurred, and lesser but still substantial reductions of total phosphorus (89%) and total suspended solids loads (88%) were achieved. Removal of nitrate was seasonally dependent, with lower removal occurring in cold weather and a high percentage (90%+) of nitrate load removal occurring in the growing season when water temperature exceeded 15°C. Long-term before-and-after sampling in downstream Hewletts Creek proper showed that, after wetland construction, statistically significant average decreases of 43% for nitrate, 72% for ammonium, and 59% for fecal coliform bacteria were realized. Wetland features contributing to the high pollutant control efficacy included available space for a large wetland, construction of deep forebays, and a dense and diverse aquatic and shoreline plant assemblage.

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Copyright © 2012. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.