Pollution levels of stormwater discharges and resulting environmental impacts

Sarah Brudler*, Martin Rygaard, Karsten Arnbjerg-Nielsen, Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Christian Ammitsøe, Luca Vezzaro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Stormwater carries pollutants that potentially cause negative environmental impacts to receiving water bodies, which can be quantified using life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). We compiled a list of 20 metals, almost 300 organic compounds, and nutrients potentially present in stormwater, and measured concentrations reported in literature. We calculated mean pollutant concentrations, which we then translated to generic impacts per litre of stormwater discharged, using existing LCIA characterisation factors. Freshwater and marine ecotoxicity impacts were found to be within the same order of magnitude (0.72, and 0.82 CTUe/l respectively), while eutrophication impacts were 3.2E-07 kgP-eq/l for freshwater and 2.0E-06 kgN-eq/l for marine waters. Stormwater discharges potentially have a strong contribution to ecotoxicity impacts compared to other human activities, such as human water consumption and agriculture. Conversely, contribution to aquatic eutrophication impacts was modest. Metals were identified as the main contributor to ecotoxicity impacts, causing >97% of the total impacts. This is in line with conclusions from a legal screening, where metals showed to be problematic when comparing measured concentrations against existing environmental quality standards.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)754-763
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Ecotoxicity
  • EQS
  • Eutrophication
  • Life cycle impact assessment
  • Metals
  • Organics


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