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Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and major and trace elements in simulated rainfall runoff from parking lots, Austin, Texas, 2003

January 1, 1994

Samples of creek bed sediment collected near seal-coated parking lots in Austin, Texas, by the City of Austin during 2001–02 had unusually elevated concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). To investigate the possibility that PAHs from seal-coated parking lots might be transported to urban creeks, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Austin, sampled runoff and scrapings from four test plots and 13 urban parking lots. The surfaces sampled comprise coal-tar-emulsion-sealed, asphalt-emulsion-sealed, unsealed asphalt, and unsealed concrete. Particulates and filtered water in runoff and surface scrapings were analyzed for PAHs. In addition, particulates in runoff were analyzed for major and trace elements. Samples of all three media from coal-tar-sealed parking lots had concentrations of PAHs higher than those from any other types of surface. The mean total PAH concentration in particulates in runoff from parking lots in use were 3,500,000, 620,000, and 54,000 micrograms per kilogram from coal-tar-sealed, asphalt-sealed, and unsealed (asphalt and concrete combined) lots, respectively. The probable effect concentration sediment quality guideline is 22,800 micrograms per kilogram. The mean total PAH (sum of detected PAHs) concentration in filtered water from parking lots in use was 8.6 micrograms per liter for coal-tar-sealed lots; the one sample analyzed from an asphalt-sealed lot had a concentration of 5.1 micrograms per liter and the one sample analyzed from an unsealed asphalt lot was 0.24 microgram per liter. The mean total PAH concentration in scrapings was 23,000,000, 820,000, and 14,000 micrograms per kilogram from coal-tar-sealed, asphalt-sealed, and unsealed asphalt lots, respectively. Concentrations of lead and zinc in particulates in runoff frequently exceeded the probable effect concentrations, but trace element concentrations showed no consistent variation with parking lot surface type.