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Hydrology, water quality, and biological characteristics of Levittown Lake, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, April 2010–June 2011

November 29, 2022

Levittown Lake is a 30-hectare, brackish waterbody located in the municipality of Toa Baja, on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The lake is a small, man-made feature formed by draining the marshland over which the Levittown community was built. Levittown Lake has an average depth of about 5 meters and a water level at/near mean sea level. Tidal oscillations within the lake were minimal during the study, about 10 centimeters regardless of ocean tides, and the daily flushing rate of the lake was about 2 percent of its entire water volume.

Hydrologic, water-quality, and biological data were collected in Levittown Lake and adjacent areas (specifically, the inlet/outlet channel and Caño El Hato drainage canal) between April 2010 and June 2011 (1) to establish baseline conditions and determine the water quality of the lake on the basis of preestablished standards and (2) for contrast with other, more healthy coastal lagoons. The study provides a baseline for an assessment of the potential of Levittown Lake to function as a coastal lagoon.

Water-quality properties measured onsite (temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen concentration, specific conductance, salinity, and water transparency) varied diurnally and seasonally. In general, water-quality properties were in compliance with current regulatory Class SB standards established by the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board, except for some dissolved oxygen concentration and pH measurements. Some dissolved oxygen concentration measurements at the water surface and all dissolved oxygen concentration measurements at the lake bottom were lower than the values recommended by the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board. The pH of the water at the lake surface ranged from 7.3 to 9.1, with the upper value exceeding the recommended pH values. Nutrient concentrations were below the current regulatory standards of less than 5 milligrams per liter (mg/L) for total nitrogen and 1 mg/L for total phosphorus. The measured concentrations of chlorophyll a varied throughout the year of sampling and indicate that eutrophic conditions predominate in Levittown Lake.

The phytoplankton yielded an average net productivity of 0.5 milligram of oxygen per liter per hour, as determined by light and dark bottle primary productivity studies conducted on a monthly basis and measured in the early morning hours. Because these measurements were restricted to the morning hours, a qualification of the representativeness of the results to the full diurnal cycle is necessary. The measured hourly respiration rate averaged 0.39 milligram of oxygen per liter. Diel studies were planned in the lake to assess dissolved oxygen concentration diurnal curves and ultimately to compute the community net primary productivity, respiration, and gross productivity. Conditions during the diel studies were later determined to be unsuitable, limiting the assessment of community metabolism. Another biological indicator evaluated during the study was the phytoplankton biomass, and results indicated that phytoplankton biomass measured at the Levittown Lake ranged from 6.0 to 112.5 mg/L.

Fecal indicator bacteria concentrations ranged from 10 to 1,540,000 colonies per 100 milliliters of water. Concentrations generally were greatest in and near the Caño El Hato drainage canal and, during the study, exceeded current regulatory standards established for Puerto Rico.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Hydrology, water quality, and biological characteristics of Levittown Lake, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, April 2010–June 2011
DOI 10.3133/sir20225096
Authors Luis R. Soler-López, Julieta M. Gómez-Fragoso, Nicole A. Val-Merníz
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2022-5096
Index ID sir20225096
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center