TSS or Total Suspended Solids

Chemical symbol/abbreviations:

TSS, suspended solids

Form commonly found in stormwater:

Rock and soil fragments, dirt and debris from roads and vehicles.

Related constituents:

Turbidity – a measure of the optical diffraction imparted by solids in the water, with no direct relationship between TSS and turbidity units.

Solubility in water:

Suspended solids are insoluble in water and will settle out of suspension with enough time.

Adverse human impacts:

High TSS levels are often associated with higher levels of disease-causing microorganisms such as viruses, parasites and some bacteria, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches.[i] Suspended solids can also make streams less aesthetically enjoyable.

Adverse impacts on the environment:

Suspended solids reduce visibility and absorb light, which can increase stream temperatures and reduce photosynthesis.[ii]
Impeding aquatic plant photosynthesis reduces the amount of food, habitat and dissolved oxygen available for other species.[iii]
Fine particles may also clog and abrade fish and insect gills and tissue and interfere with egg and larval development.[iv]
Pollutants such as pesticides and PCBs adhere to the surfaces of TSS and can be transported into aquatic environments in this fashion.[v]

Stormwater Treatment to Remove TSS

U.S. EPA water quality criteria:

None. EPA recommends water quality criteria for many of the constituents included in TSS[vi]


Total suspended solids (TSS) describe particulates of varied origin, including soils, metals, organic materials and debris that are suspended in a moving body of water. Turbulence keeps the particulates suspended in water allowing the solids to be transported downstream.
Total suspended solids and turbidity are distinct measurements that provide similar assessment of the water quality. TSS is a measure of the mass of solids found in a volume of water that can be filtered by a 1.5 um glass fiber filter.  Turbidity is a measure of the optical diffraction imparted by solids the water. Both can be used to assess the impact of solids on a water body.[vii]


The largest amounts of solids are generated from construction activities, agriculture, unpaved surfaces, and waste management. However, solids develop from less evident sources such as highways, parking lots, and air emissions.[viii] Wind and rain act as the predominant mechanism transporting solids into waterways.


[i] U.S. EPA, List of Contaminants and Their MCLs, http://www.epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/index.html

[ii] Lake Superior Streams, Turbidity and TSS, http://www.lakesuperiorstreams.org/understanding/param_turbidity.html (last visited Aug. 4, 2010).

The StormwateRx Clara® is often used as pretreatment to the Aquip for removal of suspended solids. For industries with a heavy solids load, Clara is often the product of choice, especially if there are no other pollutants that require more fine particulate filtering or polishing.

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.

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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