Areas of Concern: 18 Mile Creek AOC - Fish Community Characterizations

Science Center Objects

The downstream-most section of Eighteen Mile Creek (also listed as the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (USEPA) superfund site EIGHTEENMILE CREEK LOCKPORT, NY), a tributary to the south shore of Lake Ontario in New York, was designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) because water quality and bed sediments were contaminated by past industrial and municipal discharges, waste disposal, and pesticide usage. Five beneficial use impairments (BUIs) have been identified in the Eighteen Mile Creek AOC including the degradation of the “benthos”, or the benthic macroinvertebrate community.

Current knowledge of fish and wildlife populations (BUI #3) in the Eighteen Mile Creek AOC is largely based on a series of qualitative surveys in 2007 which compared fish and wildlife assemblages at a few locations in the AOC with those from several sites in a comparable reference stream, Oak Orchard Creek. Given the lack of recent and robust data on fish and wildlife populations in the AOC, current and more quantitative information is needed from more sites to effectively determine if “fish and wildlife diversity, abundance, and condition are statistically similar to diversity, abundance, and condition of populations at non-AOC control sites”. The primary objective of this study is to determine if fish population abundance and fish community structure differ significantly between the two sites.This information, coupled with the results of a separate (non-USGS) mink study, will then be used to reevaluate the degradation of fish and wildlife populations BUI.The USGS is assessing the macroinvertebrate community and testing sediment toxicity to determine if differences exist between the AOC and the relatively unimpacted reference stream Oak Orchard Creek.  Analyses of benthic macroinvertebrate community integrity and structure also indicated that macroinvertebrate communities, while impacted across most sites on both streams, were generally similar between the AOC and reference area. 

Fish community sampling was completed in June 2019 at 5 AOC sites and 5 reference sites. Approximately 1000 fish were captured, identified, measured, weighed, and released throughout the course of this sampling effort. Highlights include the capture of a large American Eel in each tributary as well as a Spotted Gar from Oak Orchard Creek – the first specimen of this species captured in New York to date. Results from 10-day toxicity tests indicated that survival and growth of two test species did not differ significantly between sediments from the AOC and reference area.

 

Contributions

The information collected through this effort will be used by the Remedial Action Committee to reevaluate BUI #3 - the degradation of fish and wildlife populations – in the Eighteen Mile Creek Area of Concern.

 

Partners

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District assisted in the planning of the sampling design and assisted in the June 2019 fish surveys.

 

A spatial view of fish sampling sites on 18 mile creek

A spatial view of fish sampling sites on 18 mile creek

(Public domain.)

Spatial view of fish sampling area on Oak Orchard Creek

A spatial view of fish sampling areas on Oak Orchard Creek. 

(Public domain.)