Does it pay to be mature? Assessing the performance of a mature bioretention cell seven years post-construction

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Virginia Tech


Bioretention cells (BRCs) are low-impact development stormwater management structures that integrate water quantity and quality management. Although BRCs have a predicted design life of about 25 years, most current research focuses on performance of cells less than two years old. This project evaluated the effectiveness of a BRC installed in 2007 to treat a 0.16-ha parking lot in Blacksburg, VA. After installation, this BRC was monitored for five months to determine initial flow reduction and total suspended solids, and nutrient removal. By monitoring for the same parameters, changes in cell performance since installation were quantified. ISCO automated stormwater samplers collected inflow and outflow composite samples from the cell, which were then analyzed for fecal indicator bacteria (total coliforms, E. coli, and enterococci), total suspended solids (TSS), total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP). To determine if denitrification is occurring within the BRC, media samples taken throughout the cell were analyzed using qPCR. The bioretention media was also sampled to quantify changes in media nutrient content and particle size over the past seven years. Results indicate the bioretention media has not accumulated nitrogen and phosphorus since installation, and that the BRC remains effective at reducing flow volume and peak flow rates, as well as TSS, TN, TP, total coliforms, E. coli, and enterococci loads. Bacterial analysis of the media show most of the denitrifiers are present in the top layers of the bioretention media, despite an internal water storage layer and the bottom of the cell designed specifically for denitrification.



Bioretention, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, fecal indicator bacteria, denitrification