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Nutrient and metal loads estimated by using discrete, automated, and continuous water-quality monitoring techniques for the Blackstone River at the Massachusetts-Rhode Island State line, water years 2013–14

January 10, 2018

Flow-proportional composite water samples were collected in water years 2013 and 2014 by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, from the Blackstone River at Millville, Massachusetts (U.S. Geological Survey station 01111230), about 0.5 mile from the border with Rhode Island. Samples were collected in order to better understand the dynamics of selected nutrient and metal constituents, assist with planning, guide activities to meet water-quality goals, and provide real-time water-quality information to the public. An automated system collected the samples at 14-day intervals to determine total and dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, to provide accurate monthly nutrient concentration data, and to calculate monthly load estimates. Concentrations of dissolved trace metals and total aluminum were determined from 4-day composite water samples that were collected twice monthly by the automated system. Results from 4-day composites provide stakeholders with information to evaluate trace metals on the basis of chronic 4-day exposure criteria for aquatic life, and the potential to use the biotic ligand model to evaluate copper concentrations. Nutrient, trace metal, suspended sediment, dissolved organic carbon, and chlorophyll a concentrations were determined from discrete samples collected at the Millville station and from across the stream transect at the upstream railroad bridge, and these concentrations served as a means to evaluate the representativeness of the Millville point location.

Analytical results from samples collected with the automated flow-proportional sampling system provided the means to calculate monthly and annual loading data. Total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads in water year (WY) 2013 were about 447,000 and 36,000 kilograms (kg), respectively. In WY 2014, annual loads of total nitrogen and total phosphorus were about 342,000 and 21,000 kg, respectively. Total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads from WYs 2013 and 2014 were about 56 and 65 percent lower than those reported for WYs 2008 and 2009. The higher loads in 2008 and 2009 may be explained by the higher than average flows in WY 2009 and by facility upgrades made by wastewater treatment facilities in the basin.

Median loads were determined from composite samples collected with the automated system between October 2012 and October 2014. Median dissolved cadmium and chromium 4-day loads were 0.55 and 0.84 kg, respectively. Dissolved copper and total lead median 4-day loads were 8.02 and 1.42 kg, respectively. The dissolved nickel median 4-day load was 5.45 kg, and the dissolved zinc median 4-day load was 36 kg. Median total aluminum 4-day loads were about 197 kg.

Spearman’s rank correlation analyses were used with discrete sample concentrations and continuous records of temperature, specific conductance, turbidity, and chlorophyll a to identify correlations between variables that could be used to develop regression equations for estimating real-time concentrations of constituents. Correlation coefficients were generated for flow, precipitation, antecedent precipitation, physical parameters, and chemical constituents. A 95-percent confidence limit for each value of Spearman’s rho was calculated, and multiple linear regression analysis using ordinary least squares regression techniques was used to develop regression equations for concentrations of total phosphorus, total nitrogen, suspended sediment concentration, total copper, and total aluminum. Although the correlations are based on the limited amount of data collected as part of this study, the potential to monitor water-quality changes in real time may be of value to resource managers and decision makers.

Publication Year 2018
Title Nutrient and metal loads estimated by using discrete, automated, and continuous water-quality monitoring techniques for the Blackstone River at the Massachusetts-Rhode Island State line, water years 2013–14
DOI 10.3133/sir20175094
Authors Jason R. Sorenson, Gregory E. Granato, Kirk P. Smith
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5094
Index ID sir20175094
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New England Water Science Center