A hydrologic retention system and water quality monitoring program for a human decomposition research facility: concept and design

J Forensic Sci. 2015 Jan;60(1):54-60. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.12537. Epub 2014 Jul 17.


Forensic taphonomy is an essential research field; however, the decomposition of human cadavers at forensic science facilities may lead to nutrient loading and the introduction of unique biological compounds to adjacent areas. The infrastructure of a water retention system may provide a mechanism for the biogeochemical processing and retention of nutrients and compounds, ensuring the control of runoff from forensic facilities. This work provides a proof of concept for a hydrologic retention system and an autonomous water quality monitoring program designed to mitigate runoff from The Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science (STAFS) Facility. Water samples collected along a sample transect were analyzed for total phosphorous, total nitrogen, NO3-, NO2-, NH4, F(-), and Cl(-). Preliminary water quality analyses confirm the overall effectiveness of the water retention system. These results are discussed with relation to how this infrastructure can be expanded upon to monitor additional, more novel, byproducts of forensic science research facilities.

Keywords: forensic science; forensic taphonomy; nutrient loading; runoff; water quality; wetlands.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Health Facilities
  • Humans
  • Medical Waste Disposal*
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Nitrogen / analysis*
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Texas
  • Waste Water / chemistry*
  • Water Quality*
  • Wetlands*


  • Medical Waste Disposal
  • Nitrates
  • Waste Water
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen