USGS

Effects of Storm-Water Runoff on Local Ground-Water Quality, Clarksville, Tennessee

U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 90-4044

by Anne B. Hoos

This report is available as a pdf below


Abstract

Storm-related water-quality data were collected at a drainage-well site and at a spring site in Clarksville, Tennessee, to define the effects of storm-water runoff on the quality of ground water in the area. A dye-trace test verified the direct hydraulic connection between the drainage well and Mobley Spring. Samples of storm run off and spring flow were collected at these sites for nine storms during the period February to October 1988. Water samples were collected also from Mobley Spring and two other springs and two observation wells in the area during dry-weather conditions to assess the general quality of ground water in an urban karst terrain.

Evaluation of the effect of storm-water runoff on the quality of local ground water is complicated by the presence of other sources of contaminants in the area Concentrations and load for most major constituents were much smaller in storm-water runoff at the drainage well than in the discharge of Mobley Spring, indicating that much of the chemical constituent load discharged from the spring comes from sources other than the drainage well. However, for some of the minor constituents associated with roadway runoff (arsenic, copper, lead, organic carbon, and oil and grease), the drainage well contributed relatively large amounts of these constituents to local ground water during storms. The close correlation between concentrations of total organic carbon and concentrations of most trace metals at the drainage-well and Mobley Spring sites indicates that these constituents are transported together. Many trace metals were flushed early during each runoff event.

Mean storm loads for copper, lead, zinc, and four nutrient species (total nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, total phosphorus, and orthophosphorus) in storm-water runoff at the drainage-well site were lower than mean storm load predicted from an existing regression model. The overprediction by the model may be a result of the small size of the drainage area relative to the range of drainage areas used in the development of the models, or to the below-normal amounts of rainfall during the period of sampling for this investigation. Loads& in storm-water runoff for 22 constituents were extrapolated from sampled storms to total loads for the period February to October 1988. Calculated loads for trace metals for the period ranged from 0.030pound.s for cadmium to 12pound.s for strontium. Loads of the primary nutrients ranged from 0.97pounds for nitrite as nitrogen to 34pounds of organic nitrogen.

Storm-water quality at the drainage-well and Mobley Spring sites was compared to background water quality of the local aquifer; as characterized by dry-weather samples from three springs and two observation wells in the Clarksville area. Concentrations of total-recoverable cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and nickel were higher in many stormwater samples from both the drainage-well and Mobley Spring sites than in samples from any other site. In addition, concentrations of total organic carbon, methylene blue active substances, and total-recoverable oil and grease were generally higher in storm-water samples from the drainage-well site than in any ground-water sample.

Densities of fecal coliform and fecal streptococcus bacteria and concentrations of total recoverable iron, manganese, and methylene blue active substances in storm samples from the drainage-well site exceeded the maximum contaminant levels listed in Tennessee’s drinking-water standards (1988) by as much as 2,500 and 5,500 colonies per 100 milliliters, and 2.7, 0.29, and 0.05 milligrams per liter, respectively. Densities of fecal coliform and fecal streptococcus bacteria and concentrations of total-recoverable iron, manganese, and lead in storm samples from Mobley Spring exceeded the maximum contaminant levels by as much as 500 and 4,500 colonies per 100 milliliters, and 18.7,0.65, and 0.02 milligrams per liter, respectively. For iron, manganese, and bacteria, these undesirable levels are not necessarily attributable to storm-water recharge, because concentrations of these constituents also exceeded drinking-water standards in one or more of the dry-weather samples from selected springs and observation wells in the area.

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