Chemical symbol/abbreviations:

Pb, Pb2+

Form commonly found in stormwater:

Dissolved in water as Al3+, Al(OH)4, particulate aluminum.

Adverse human impacts:

Even at low levels, lead may cause a range of human health effects including learning disabilities, kidney problems and high blood pressure when ingested.[i]
Children under seven years old are most at risk because this is when the brain is developing.[ii]

Adverse impacts on the environment:

Unlike other trace elements, lead is neither essential nor beneficial for living organisms.[iii] Organolead compounds are generally more toxic than inorganic lead compounds.  Adverse effects of lead in water on aquatic species occur at concentrations of 1.0 – 5.1 ug/l and include reduced survival, impaired reproduction and reduced growth.[iv]
 Lead poisoning in birds occurs at higher levels (measured in milligrams per kilogram of body weight) usually from ingestion of lead shots.[v] A bird with lead poisoning will have physical and behavioral changes, including loss of balance, gasping, tremors, and impaired ability to fly.[vi]

Stormwater Treatment to Remove Lead

In mammals, adverse effects of lead ingestion occur at levels ranging from 0.005 -5.0 mg Pb/kg body weight.


Lead is a soft dull-grey metal that is extracted from ore deep within the earth’s crust.[viii]

It has a shiny metallic luster after being freshly cut and is highly malleable and corrosion resistant.[x]
It also has a high propensity for adsorbing x-rays and gamma rays.[xi] Lead has the highest atomic mass of all other stable, non-radioactive elements.
Lead is used for its unique characteristics although it is now less widely used in domestic products because of its toxicity to humans.[xii] Domestic uses of lead in gasoline and paint have stopped in the U.S. and other countries. Common uses of lead today are lead acid batteries as used in automotives, bullets and shotgun shot, fishing sinkers, industrial grade and non-domestic paint, boat keels, radiation shielding, and soldering.[xiii]


The United States is the world’s third largest lead producer creating 15% of global production.[xiv]
Most domestic lead is yielded from six mines in Missouri plus mines in Alaska, Idaho, and Montana. [xv]

U.S. EPA recommended water quality criteria:

Freshwater – Aquatic Organisms (Total Recoverable; pH 6.5-9.0)Saltwater– Aquatic OrganismsHuman Health for the consumption of
Acute (µg/L)Chronic (µg/L)Acute (µg/L)Chronic (µg/L)Water + Organism (µg/L)Organism Only (µg/L)
Lead mining is done predominantly using underground mines which are several hundred feet within the ground.[xvi]


Lead enters the environment and human contact through the use and manufacturing of consumer products, and by contaminated soils and water. Groundwater can become contaminated by mine dewatering operations.[xvii]


Lead-based paints on buildings pre-dating the 1970’s can contaminate soils in the vicinity.[xviii]  Industries that manufacture, recycle, demolish, or refurbish products contain lead are likely to release lead into the environment.



[i] U.S. EPA, Lead in Drinking Water http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead/basicinformation.html.

[ii] U.S. EPA, Lead in Drinking Water http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lead/basicinformation.html.

[iii] Ronald Eisler, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., Lead hazards to fish, wildlife, and invertebrates: a synoptic review (1988) available at http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/infobase/eisler/chr_14_lead.pdf.

[iv] Eisler, supra.

[v] Eisler, supra.

[vi] U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Let’s Get the Lead Out (1999) http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/documents/leadpoisoning2.pdf.

[vii] Eisler, supra.

[viii] U.S. EPA, National Recommended Water Quality Criteria, http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/criteria/wqctable/index.html#U (last visited July 22, 2010).

[ix] Hyperphysics, Lead, http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/pertab/Pb.html#c1 (last visited July 7, 2010)

[x] Hyperphysics, supra.

[xi] Hyperphysics, supra.

[xii] See Science Progress, A brief history in lead regulation, http://www.scienceprogress.org/2008/10/a-brief-history-of-lead-regulation/ (last visited July 7, 2010)

[xiii] Buzzle.com, Uses of lead, http://www.buzzle.com/articles/uses-of-lead.html (last visited July 7, 2010).

[xiv] MBendi Information Services, Zinc and Lead Mining in North America – Overview http://www.mbendi.com/indy/ming/ldzc/am/p0005.htm (last visited July 7, 2010).

[xv] MBendi Information Services, supra.

[xvi] Doe Run Co., What we do: mining metal, http://www.doerun.com/WHATWEDO/METALMINING/tabid/72/language/en-US/Default.aspx (last visited July 7, 2010).

[xvii] U.S. Geological Survey, Geohydrological and biological investigations associated with lead-zinc exploration and mining in Southeastern Missouri  http://mo.water.usgs.gov/mining/leadmining.htm (last visited July 7, 2010).

[xviii] U.S. EPA., Mid-Atlantic lead paint: frequently asked questions about lead, http://www.epa.gov/reg3wcmd/lp-faqhealth.htm (last visited July 7, 2010).

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.

error: Content is protected !!