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Potential for localized groundwater contamination in a porous pavement parking lot setting in Rhode Island

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Environmental Geology


The control of polluted surface runoff and the assessment of possible impacts on groundwater is a concern at the local and regional scale. On this background, a study investigates possible impacts of organic and inorganic pollutants (including bacteria) originating from a permeable asphalt parking lot on the water quality immediately beneath it. The functioning of the permeable pavement, including clogging and restricted vertical percolation, was also evaluated. Four nested sample ports (shallow and deep) were installed below low- and high-traffic areas, including one port outside the parking lot. At least initially there was a good hydraulic connection between the parking surface and the shallow sample ports. The presence of a geotextile layer at the base of the parking lot structure, however, was identified in lab tests as one factor restricting vertical percolation to the deeper ports. Clogging of the permeable surface was most pronounced in heavy traffic areas and below snow pile storage areas. Corroborated by high electric conductivity and chloride measurements, sand brought in by cars during winter was the principal cause for clogging. No bacteria or BOD were found in percolating water. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) were present at concentrations near minimum detection limit. Nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) were being leached into the ground via the permeable parking lot surface at annual flux rates of 0.45–0.84 g/m2/year. A multi-species tracer test demonstrated a retention capacity of the permeable parking lot structure of >90% for metals and 27% for nutrients, respectively.

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This study was supported by a grant from the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center and contribution form BETA Group Inc.

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Correspondence to Thomas B. Boving.

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Boving, T.B., Stolt, M.H., Augenstern, J. et al. Potential for localized groundwater contamination in a porous pavement parking lot setting in Rhode Island. Environ Geol 55, 571–582 (2008).

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