Point-Source Contributions to the Water Quality of an Urban Stream

Monday, 15 December 2014
Susan Flora Bradsher Little1,2, Marion Young3 and Christopher Lowry1, (1)University at Buffalo, Geology, Buffalo, NY, United States, (2)New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Hydrology, Socorro, NM, United States, (3)University at Buffalo, Environmental Engineering, Buffalo, NY, United States
Scajaquada Creek, which runs through the heart of the city of Buffalo, is a prime example of the ways in which human intervention and local geomorphology can impact water quality and urban hydrology. Beginning in the 1920’s, the Creek has been partially channelized and connected to Buffalo’s combined sewer system (CSS). At Forest Lawn Cemetery, where this study takes place, Scajaquada Creek emerges from a 3.5-mile tunnel built to route stream flow under the city. Collocated with the tunnel outlet is a discharge point for Buffalo’s CSS, combined sewer outlet (CSO) #53. It is at this point that runoff and sanitary sewage discharge regularly during rain events. Initially, this study endeavored to create a spatial and temporal picture for this portion of the Creek, monitoring such parameters as conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and turbidity, in addition to measuring Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentrations. As expected, these factors responded directly to seasonality, local geomorphology, and distance from the point source (CSO #53), displaying a overall, linear response. However, the addition of nitrate and phosphate testing to the study revealed an entirely separate signal from that previously observed. Concentrations of these parameters did not respond to location in the same manner as E. coli. Instead of decreasing with distance from the CSO, a distinct periodicity was observed, correlating with a series of outflow pipes lining the stream banks. It is hypothesized that nitrate and phosphate occurring in this stretch of Scajaquada Creek originate not from the CSO, but from fertilizers used to maintain the lawns within the subwatershed. These results provide evidence of the complexity related to water quality issues in urban streams as a result of point- and nonpoint-source hydrologic inputs.