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Selected streambed sediment compounds and water toxicity results for Westside Creeks, San Antonio, Texas, 2014

December 1, 2016

Introduction

The Alazán, Apache, Martínez, and San Pedro Creeks in San Antonio, Texas, are part of a network of urban tributaries to the San Antonio River, known locally as the Westside Creeks. The Westside Creeks flow through some of the oldest neighborhoods in San Antonio. The disruption of streambed sediment is anticipated during a planned restoration to improve and restore the environmental condition of 14 miles of channelized sections of the Westside Creeks in San Antonio. These construction activities can create the potential to reintroduce chemicals found in the sediments into the ecosystem where, depending on hydrologic and environmental conditions, they could become bioavailable and toxic to aquatic life. Elevated concentrations of sediment-associated contaminants often are measured in urban areas such as San Antonio, Tex. Contaminants found in sediment can affect the health of aquatic organisms that ingest sediment. The gradual accumulation of trace elements and organic compounds in aquatic organisms can cause various physiological issues and can ultimately result in death of the aquatic organisms; in addition, subsequent ingestion of aquatic organisms can transfer the accumulated contaminants upward through the food chain (a process called biomagnification).

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the San Antonio River Authority, collected sediment samples and water samples for toxicity testing from sites on the Westside Creeks as part of an initial characterization of selected contaminants in the study area. Samples were collected in January 2014 during base-flow conditions and again in May 2104 after a period of stormwater runoff (poststorm conditions). Sediment samples were analyzed for selected constituents, including trace elements and organic contaminants such as pesticides, brominated flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In addition, as an indicator of ecological health (and possibly bioavailability of contaminants in disturbed streambed sediments), the toxicity of water samples to the indicator species Pimephales promelas (fathead minnow) was evaluated by using standard 7-day water-toxicity testing.