In the UK, the Highways Agency is responsible for the strategic road network. It is recognised that current design guidance to control pollutants in highway runoff is out of date. A research programme is in progress to develop a better understanding of pollutants in highway runoff and their ecological impact. The paper summarises the outcome of a study to: (1) monitor pollutants in highway runoff under different climate and traffic conditions at 24 sites; (2) develop standards to assess potential ecological risks; and (3) develop a model to predict pollutant concentrations in highway runoff.

Data collection and analysis of the resulting data have identified a link between pollutant concentrations and traffic density. A number of pollutants routinely present in highway runoff have been identified as posing the greatest ecological risk. Ecologically based standards for acute impacts have been derived for the soluble form of these pollutants. These standards will be used in conjunction with the model to indicate where runoff treatment may be required to mitigate ecological risk. The model and standards will be used to develop improved design guidance to protect receiving waters from pollutants in highway runoff by identifying where runoff treatment is required, and to what degree.

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