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Urban runoff has been identified in water quality policy documents for San Francisco Bay as a large and potentially controllable source of pollutants. In response, concentrations of suspended sediments and a range of trace organic pollutants were intensively measured in dry weather and storm flow runoff from a 100% urban watershed. Flow in this highly urban watershed responded very quickly to rainfall and varied widely resulting in rapid changes of turbidity, suspended sediments and pollutant concentrations. Concentrations of each organic pollutant class were within similar ranges reported in other studies of urban runoff, however comparison was limited for several of the pollutants given information scarcity. Consistently among PCBs, PBDEs, and PAHs, the more hydrophobic congeners were transported in larger proportions during storm flows relative to low flows. Loads for Water Years 2007-2010 were estimated using regression with turbidity during the monitored months and a flow weighted mean concentration for unmonitored dry season months. More than 91% of the loads for every pollutant measured were transported during storm events, along with 87% of the total discharge. While this dataset fills an important local data gap for highly urban watersheds of San Francisco Bay, the methods, the uniqueness of the analyte list, and the resulting interpretations have applicability for managing pollutant loads in urban watersheds in other parts of the world.
A multiyear water quality performance study of a bioretention rain garden located along a major urban transit corridor east of San Francisco Bay was conducted to assess the efficacy of bioretention rain gardens to remove pollutants. Based on data collected in three years between 2012 and 2017, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs) were reduced (>90%), whereas total mercury (Hg), methylmercury (MeHg), and copper (Cu) were moderately captured (37%, 49%, and 68% concentration reduction, respectively). Anthropogenic microparticles including microplastics were retained by the bioretention rain garden, decreasing in concentration from 1.6 particles/L to 0.16 particles/L. Based on subsampling at 50- and 150-mm intervals in soil cores from two areas of the unit, PCBs, Hg, and MeHg were all present at the highest concentrations in the upper 100 mm in the surface media layers. Based on residential screening concentrations, the surface media layer near the inlet would need to be removed and replaced annually, whereas the rest of the unit would need replacement every 8 years. The results of this study support the use of bioretention in the San Francisco Bay Area as one management option for meeting load reductions required by San Francisco Bay total maximum daily loads, and provide useful data for supporting decisions about media replacement and overall maintenance schedules.