The retention of suspended solids, particles and heavy metals in different grassed swales during rain events and snowmelt is discussed. The experimental results derived from investigations performed in existing grassed swales in the Luleå region, Northern Sweden. During high pollutant loading rates, grassed swales retain significant amounts of pollutants, mainly due to sedimentation of particulate matter. Low to moderate removal efficiencies could be expected for heavy metals, especially metals in solution (i.e. the dissolved phase). When grassed swales receive urban runoff with low pollutant concentrations, they may release rather than retain pollutants. Swales are important snow deposit areas in the city and particle bound pollutants do to a large extent remain in the swale after snowmelt. However, dissolved pollutants (i.e. dissolved heavy metals) are likely to escape the swale with the melt water. Grassed swales may be regarded as facilities that even out the peaks in pollutant loads without being capable of producing consistent high removal rates. This suggests that swales should be considered as primary treatment devices. Possible design parameters for grassed swales are mean hydraulic detention time, surface loading rate or specific swale area.

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