Chemical symbol/abbreviations:

Cu, Cu2+

Form commonly found in stormwater:

Particulate copper, dissolved copper as Cu2+

Adverse human impacts:

Though copper is an essential nutrient, at high doses it has been shown to cause stomach and intestinal distress, liver and kidney damage, and anemia.  People with Wilson’s disease may be at a higher risk of health effects due to copper than the general public.[i]

Adverse impacts on the environment:

In marine waters, acute effects from copper occur to aquatic species at 4.8 μg/L.[ii]  Salmon are especially sensitive to copper, with adverse effects of occurring at freshwater concentrations between 0.18 to 2.1 μg/L.[iii]  Adverse effects of copper include disruptions to salmonid smoltification processes, interference with fish sensory systems, and behaviors related to predator avoidance, juvenile growth, and migratory success.[iv]

Stormwater Treatment to Remove Copper


Copper is orange metal found in relative-abundance within the earth’s crust.[vii] Pure copper is highly malleable, a good conductor of heat, and has a moderately high melting point. When exposed to the elements, it reacts with oxygen to form a light shade of green. Bronze and brass are also made from copper alloyed with tin and zinc, respectively.[viii]
Copper and its alloys have been used by many different civilizations as far back as 9000 BC.[ix] Numerous copper artifacts have been identified across the globe. Modern uses of copper include electrical wiring, plumbing materials, roofing, cookware, automobile brake pads, and agricultural products.[x]
In 2007, the United States was the third largest producer of copper in the world behind Chile and Peru.[xi]
Thirteen mines within Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico account for 99% of domestic production. Open pit mines are used to extract copper in the form of mineral ore which is then refined through a variety of process.[xii]

Copper is introduced into the environment through both natural and anthropogenic activities. Anthropogenic sources of copper in the environment are copper mining activities, metal and electrical manufacturing, agricultural and domestic use of pesticides and fungicides, leather processing, and automotive brake pads. Natural sources of copper pollution are volcanic eruptions, windblown dust, and forest fires.

U.S. EPA recommended water quality criteria: [vi]

Freshwater – Aquatic Organisms (Dissolved Concentration*)Saltwater– Aquatic OrganismsHuman Health for the consumption of
Varies depending on in-stream characteristics, including temperature, pH and alkalinity.Acute (µg/L)Chronic (µg/L)Water + Organism (µg/L)Organism Only (µg/L)
*Based on hardness value of 100mg/L. Criteria vary with the hardness of the receiving water body.[v]



[i] U.S. EPA, National Primary Drinking Water Regulations, Technical Factsheet on: COPPER, 1

Learn About Aquip
The StormwateRx Aquip® industrial filtration system uses an innovative enhanced sand filtration process to effectively remove soluble and insoluble aluminum and other metals as well as oils, suspended solids, organics and nutrients from industrial stormwater runoff.

Learn About Purus
The Purus™ Stormwater Polishing System (previously known as the AquiPlus) provides the most advanced level of stormwater treatment, and is designed for challenging stormwater conditions or targeted pollutant removal.

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