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 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 and Stormwater FAQs

Why should copper be removed from stormwater?2019-07-22T16:22:45+00:00

Image by Wikipedia

Copper (Cu2+) is an orange metal commonly found in stormwater as particulate copper and/or dissolved copper. Copper in these forms can make its way into waterways and human freshwater drinking sources through stormwater runoff.

While copper is an important essential nutrient, copper in drinking water at high concentrations can have negative effects on human health, which may include:

  • stomach and intestinal distress,
  • liver and kidney damage,
  • and anemia.[i]

Likewise, copper in rivers and oceans at high concentrations has a negative impact on fish and wildlife. Studies of salmon [ii] in freshwater systems show that salmon are especially sensitive to copper, with adverse effects including:

  • disruptions to salmonid smoltification processes,
  • interference with fish sensory systems and behaviors related to predator avoidance,
  • juvenile growth,
  • and migratory success.[iv]
How are copper and other pollutants removed from stormwater? (video)2019-05-17T14:36:36+00:00

Copper along with heavy metals and other pollutants can be removed by passive media filtration, however high amounts of copper may require a treatment train. View this two-minute video to see a filtration process in action.

How is copper removed from industrial stormwater runoff?2019-07-22T16:26:36+00:00

Copper can be present in stormwater in both particulate and dissolved states. Passive media filtration can be used to remove particulate copper. If further reduction is necessary to remove dissolved copper, polishing technologies can be used. Both types of BMPs combined in a treatment train will remove total copper from stormwater prior to discharge to help facilities meet benchmarks or NALs. The Aquip passive media filter and the Purus metals polisher in combination offer an advanced level of lead removal from stormwater. Learn more about our stormwater media filtration and polishing technologies.

How is copper removed from rooftop runoff?2019-07-23T16:08:57+00:00

Copper in rooftop runoff is typically found in a dissolved state. Dissolved copper can be removed from rooftop stormwater runoff by running it through an advanced, passive media filter connected to a downspout. Our Zinc-B-Gone downspout units provide an advanced level of treatment for effective removal of copper from rooftop stormwater runoff treatment. Find out more about Zinc-B-Gone.


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

Aquip® industrial stormwater filtration system uses an innovative enhanced media 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.

Purus® Stormwater Polishing System provides the most advanced level of stormwater treatment, and is designed for challenging stormwater conditions or targeted polluant removal.