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Groundwater flux and nutrient loading in the northeast section of Bear Lake, Muskegon County, Michigan, 2015

November 30, 2017

Bear Lake in North Muskegon, Michigan, is listed as part of the Muskegon Lake area of concern as designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This area of concern was designated as a result of eutrophication and beneficial use impairments. On the northeast end of Bear Lake, two man-made retention ponds (Willbrandt Pond East and Willbrandt Pond West), formerly used for celery farming, may contribute nutrients to Bear Lake. Willbrandt Ponds (East and West) were previously muck fields that were actively used for celery farming from the early 1900s until 2002. The restoration and reconnection of the Willbrandt Ponds into Bear Lake prompted concerns of groundwater nutrient loading into Bear Lake. Studies done by the State of Michigan and Grand Valley State University revised initial internal phosphorus load estimates and indicated an imbalance in the phosphorus budget in Bear Lake. From June through November 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) did an investigative study to quantify the load of nutrients from shallow groundwater around the Willbrandt Ponds in an effort to update the phosphorus budget to Bear Lake. Seven sampling locations were established, including five shallow groundwater wells and two surface-water sites, in the Willbrandt pond study area and Bear Lake. A total of 12 nutrient samples and discrete water-level measurements were collected from each site from June through November 2015. Continuous water-level data were recorded for both surface-water monitoring locations for the entire sampling period.

Water-level data indicated that Willbrandt Pond West had the highest average water-level elevation of all sites monitored, which indicated the general direction of flux is from Willbrandt Pond West to Bear Lake. Nutrient and chloride loading from Willbrandt Pond West to Bear Lake was calculated using two distinct methods: Dupuit and direct seepage methods. Shallow groundwater loading calculations were determined by using groundwater levels to first determine a flux of shallow groundwater, then nutrient concentrations to determine a load. It was determined that Willbrandt Pond East and Willbrandt Pond West contributed between 2 to 4 percent of the total annual phosphorus load to Bear Lake by way of shallow groundwater flow. Annual loads calculated for other constituents include orthophosphate (40–100 pounds per year [lb P/yr]), total nitrogen (200–830 lb/yr), chloride (12,700–32,100 lb/yr), and ammonia (130–670 lb N/yr). Study results indicated that mean groundwater and surface-water nutrient concentrations calculated in this study were higher than reported Michigan statewide values. The data collected in this study allow understanding of groundwater nutrient loading into Bear Lake in an effort to help inform future restoration and management decisions.

Publication Year 2017
Title Groundwater flux and nutrient loading in the northeast section of Bear Lake, Muskegon County, Michigan, 2015
DOI 10.3133/sir20175092
Authors Alexander R. Totten, Jessica A. Maurer, Joseph W. Duris
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5092
Index ID sir20175092
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Michigan Water Science Center