Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Major Professor

Sarina Ergas


denitrification, hydrologic impact, low impact development, nitrification, wood chips


This research estimates nitrogen removal from stormwater runoff using a denitrifying bioretention system using the USEPA Storm Water Management Model Version 5 (SWMM-5). SWMM-5 has been used to help planners make better decisions since its development in 1971. A conventional bioretention system is a type of Low Impact Development (LID) technology, which designed without a media layer specifically for achieving nitrogen removal. More recently studies have showed that high TN removal efficiencies are possible when incorporating a denitrification media layer. These systems are known as denitrifying bioretention systems, or alternative bioretention systems. LID projects are currently being designed and developed in Sarasota County, Florida. These projects include a bioretention cell retrofit project on Venice East Blvd., in Venice, FL where thirteen bioretention cells will be developed. Although implementation of LID has already begun in southwest Florida, little research exists on whether these systems are effective at reducing non-point sources of nutrients. Therefore, the overall goal of this research project was to investigate the performance of a proposed bioretention system in Venice, FL to treat non-point sources of nitrogen from stormwater runoff.

An alternative bioretention cell (ABC) model was designed to conceptually address water routing through a layered bioretention cell by separating the model into treatment layers- the layers where the nitrification and denitrification reactions are expected to occur within an alternative bioretention system (i.e., nitrification is assumed to occur in the sand media layer, and denitrification in the wood chip media layer). The bioretention cell configuration was based largely on the development plans provided by Sarasota County; however, the configuration incorporated the same electron donor media for denitrification that was used in a prior study (i.e., wood chips). Site-specific input parameters needed to calibrate the ABC model were obtained from laboratory analyses, the literature, and the US Geological website (

Using a mass balance approach, and the hydraulic residence time (HRT) values from the results of a previous study, first-order loss rate coefficients for both nitrification and denitrification (k1 and k2, respectively) were estimated. The rate coefficients were then used to develop treatment expression for nitrification and denitrification reactions. The treatment expressions were used to estimate the annual load reductions for TKN, NO3--N, and TN at the Venice East Blvd. bioretention retrofit site.

Six storm events were simulated using a range of nitrogen concentrations. The simulation results showed minimal nitrification removal rates for storm events exceeding 1 inch, due to the planned bioretention system area being only 1% of the subcatchment area. A new ABC model was created (based on EPA bioretention cell sizing guidelines), to be 6% of the subcatchment area. Both systems were used to estimate TN removal efficiencies. The larger sized ABC model results showed average TKN, NO3--N and TN reductions of 84%, 96%; and 87%, respectively; these are comparable to results from similar studies. Results indicate that adequate nitrogen attenuation is achievable in the alternative bioretention system, if it is sized according to EPA sizing guidelines (5-7%).