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Chemical concentrations and instantaneous loads, Green River to the Lower Duwamish Waterway near Seattle, Washington, 2013–15

December 23, 2015

In November 2013, U.S. Geological Survey streamgaging equipment was installed at a historical water-quality station on the Duwamish River, Washington, within the tidal influence at river kilometer 16.7 (U.S. Geological Survey site 12113390; Duwamish River at Golf Course at Tukwila, WA). Publicly available, real-time continuous data includes river streamflow, stream velocity, and turbidity. Between November 2013 and March 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey collected representative samples of water, suspended sediment, or bed sediment from the streamgaging station during 28 periods of differing flow conditions. Samples were analyzed by Washington-State-accredited laboratories for a large suite of compounds, including metals, dioxins/furans, semivolatile compounds including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, butytins, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) Aroclors and the 209 PCB congeners, volatile organic compounds, hexavalent chromium, and total and dissolved organic carbon. Metals, PCB congeners, and dioxins/furans were frequently detected in unfiltered-water samples, and concentrations typically increased with increasing suspended-sediment concentrations. Chemical concentrations in suspendedsediment samples were variable between sampling periods. The highest concentrations of many chemicals in suspended sediment were measured during summer and early autumn storm periods.

Median chemical concentrations in suspended-sediment samples were greater than median chemical concentrations in fine bed sediment (less than 62.5 µm) samples, which were greater than median chemical concentrations in paired bulk bed sediment (less than 2 mm) samples. Suspended-sediment concentration, sediment particle-size distribution, and general water-quality parameters were measured concurrent with the chemistry sampling. From this discrete data, combined with the continuous streamflow record, estimates of instantaneous sediment and chemical loads from the Green River to the Lower Duwamish Waterway were calculated. For most compounds, loads were higher during storms than during baseline conditions because of high streamflow and high chemical concentrations. The highest loads occurred during dam releases (periods when stored runoff from a prior storm is released from the Howard Hanson Dam into the upper Green River) because of the high river streamflow and high suspended-sediment concentration, even when chemical concentrations were lower than concentrations measured during storm events.