Source, Movement, and Effects of Nitrogen and Phosphorus in Three Ponds in the Headwaters of Hop Brook, Marlborough, Massachusetts

U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Investigations Report 84-4017

John C. Briggs, William D. Silvey

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The headwaters of Hop Brook near Marlborough, Massachusetts, contain a series of three in-line ponds--Hager Pond, Grist Millpond, and Carding Millpond--that receive over half of their surface-water inflow as effluent from the Marlbrorough Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant. These ponds have a history of summer algal blooms and fish kills. Water entering these ponds contains quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus far higher than the levels known to promote excessive growth of aquatic vegetation. As the water moves through the three ponds, nitrogen levels decrease. Although some nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere by denitrification, the bulk of the nitrogen probably is retained in the pond sediments. There is a net decrease in phosphorus in the water leaving Carding Millpond compared to the water entering Hager Pond. However, during most sampling periods, the phosphorus concentration of water leaving Carding Millpond is still above the level known to cause excessive growth of aquatic vegetation in lakes. During certain summer periods, there appears to be release of some phosphorus from the sediments in Carding and Grist Millponds. No improvement in water quality of the three ponds can be expected until the concentrations of nutrients entering Hager Pond are reduced to levels that will not support excessive growth of aquatic vegetation.

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