Nitrogen is a common element in all natural materials and in many inorganic industrial chemicals. It exists in different forms including organic nitrogen (e.g. decaying plants and animals, and food products), urea, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and nitrogen gas. (Our atmosphere contains 80% nitrogen.) Nitrogen changes forms continually in the environment following the nitrogen cycle. In biological systems such as forests, stormwater media filters, and waterways, nitrites and nitrates are continually produced by micro-organisms as organic nitrogen is broken down as a part of the nitrogen cycle.
Some industry sectors are required to analyze their stormwater to determine if nitrogen sources are impacting the stormwater quality. Examples of some industrial processes that liberate nitrogen and may release this to stormwater:
- Food production, processing and packaging
- Solid waste facilities and transfer stations
- Rubber and plastics production and recycling
- Agriculture, compost and fertilizer amendments
To learn more, download the Fact Sheet: Nitrites and Nitrates in Stormwater