Runoff from highways contains significant loads of heavy metals and hydrocarbons. According to German regulations, it should be infiltrated over embankments to support groundwater-recharge. To investigate the decontaminating effect of greened embankments, soil-monoliths from highways with high traffic densities were taken. Soils were analyzed to characterize the contamination in relation to distance and depth for lead, zinc, copper, cadmium, PAH and MOTH. Lysimeters were charged in the field and laboratory with highway runoff to study the effluents under defined conditions.
Concentrations of pollutants in roadside soils depend on the age of embankments and traffic density. Highest concentrations were found in the upper 5 cm of the soil and within a distance of up to two metres from the street. Concentrations of most pollutants decreased rapidly with depth and distance. Lead and cadmium could not be detected in lysimeter effluent. Zinc and copper were found in concentrations that did not exceed drinking water quality limits.