Evaluation of Site-Specific Factors Influencing Heavy Metal Contents in the Topsoil of Vegetated Infiltration Swales

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Aug 1;560-561:19-28. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.04.051. Epub 2016 Apr 17.


Stormwater runoff of traffic areas is usually polluted by organic and inorganic substances and must be treated prior to discharge into groundwater. One widely used treatment method is infiltrating the runoff over the topsoil of vegetated swales. The aim of this study was to evaluate the factors influencing the heavy metal contents in such topsoil layers of vegetated infiltration swales near highways, roads, and parking lots. In total, 262 topsoil samples were taken from 35 sampling sites, which varied in age, traffic volume, road design, driving style, and site-specific conditions. In the evaluation of all soil samples, the median heavy metal values of cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and zinc were yielding 0.36 (mean: 1.21) mg/kg DM, 37.0 (mean: 44.5) mg/kg DM, 28.0 (mean: 61.5) mg/kg DM, 27.0 (mean: 71.9) mg/kg DM, and 120 (mean: 257) mg/kg DM, respectively. The main purpose was to evaluate the site-specific data (i.e., surrounding land use characteristics, traffic area site data, and operational characteristics). In general, heavy metal contents increased with increasing traffic volumes. However, other factors also had a notable impact. Factors such as road design (e.g., curves, crossings, and roundabouts) and grade of congestion significantly influenced the heavy metal contents. High heavy metal contents were detected for stop-and-go areas, roundabouts, crossings, and sites with traffic lights, signs, and guardrails. Findings of this study can be used to identify highly polluted traffic areas and to verify or improve standards regarding the treatment of runoff from traffic areas.

Keywords: Annual average daily traffic; Highway; Metals; Parking lot; Road; Stop-and-go traffic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Drainage, Sanitary
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Transportation


  • Metals, Heavy
  • Soil Pollutants