Community Partner

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality; Clackamas Water Environment Services

First Advisor

Yangdong Pan

Date of Award

Winter 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Professional Science Master in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management




Constructed wetlands -- Oregon -- Clackamas County -- Evaluation, Water -- Purification -- Organic compounds removal, Water -- Pollution -- Monitoring, Urban runoff -- Oregon -- Clackamas County -- Management, Water quality management




Stormwater management is an ongoing challenge in the United States and the world at-large. As state and municipal agencies grapple with conflicting interests like encouraging land development, complying with permits to control stormwater discharges, “urban stream syndrome” effects, and charges to steward natural resources for the long-term, some agencies may turn to constructed wetlands (CWs) as aesthetically pleasing and functional natural analogs for attenuating pollution delivered by stormwater runoff to rivers and streams. Constructed wetlands retain pollutants via common physical, physicochemical, and biological principles such as settling, adsorption, or plant and algae uptake. The efficacy of constructed wetlands for pollutant attenuation varies depending on many factors such as flow rate, pollutant loading, maintenance practices, and design features. In 2018, the culmination of efforts by Clackamas Water Environment Services and others led to the opening of the Carli Creek Water Quality Project, a 15-acre constructed wetland adjacent to Carli Creek, a small, 3500-ft tributary of the Clackamas River in Clackamas County, OR. The combined creek and constructed wetland drain an industrialized, 438-acre, impervious catchment. The wetland consists of a linear series of a detention pond and three bioretention treatment cells, contributing a combined 1.8 acres of treatment area (a 1:243 ratio with the catchment) and 3.3 acre-feet of total runoff storage. In this study, raw pollutant concentrations in runoff were evaluated against International Stormwater BMP database benchmarks and Oregon Water Quality Criteria. Concentration and mass-based reductions were calculated for 10 specific pollutants and compared to daily precipitation totals from a nearby precipitation station.

Mass-based reductions were generally higher for all pollutants, largely due to runoff volume reduction on the treatment terrace. Concentration-based reductions were highly variable, and suggested export of certain pollutants (e.g., ammonia), even when reporting on a mass-basis. Mass load reductions on the terrace for total dissolved solids, nitrate+nitrite, dissolved lead, and dissolved copper were 43.3 ± 10%, 41.9 ± 10%, 36.6 ± 13%, and 43.2 ± 16%, respectively. E. coli saw log-reductions ranging from -1.3 -- 3.0 on the terrace, and -1.0 -- 1.8 in the creek. Oregon Water Quality Criteria were consistently met at the two in-stream sites on Carli Creek for E. coli with one exception, and for dissolved cadmium, lead, zinc, and copper (with one exception for copper). However, dissolved total solids at the downstream Carli Creek site was above the Willamette River guidance value 100 mg/L roughly 71% of the time.

The precipitation record during the study was useful for explaining certain pollutant reductions, as several mechanisms are driven by physical processes, however it was not definitive. The historic rain/snow/ice event in mid-February 2021 appeared to impact mass-based reductions for all metals. Qualitatively, precipitation seemed to have the largest effect on nutrient dynamics, specifically ammonia-nitrogen.

Determining exact mechanisms of pollutant removals was outside the scope of this study. An improved flow record, more targeted storm sampling, or more comprehensive nutrient profiles could aid in answering important questions on dominant mechanisms of this new constructed wetland. This study is useful in establishing a framework and baseline for understanding this one-of-a-kind regional stormwater treatment project and pursuing further questions in the future.


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A project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Science Master in Environmental Science and Management.

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