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Data Series 879

Prepared in cooperation with the Sweetwater Authority

Water- and Air-Quality and Surficial Bed-Sediment Monitoring of the Sweetwater Reservoir Watershed, San Diego County, California, 2003–09

By Gregory O. Mendez, Michael S. Majewski, William T. Foreman, and Andrew Morita

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (6.2 MB)Abstract

In 1998, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Sweetwater Authority, began a study to assess the overall health of the Sweetwater watershed in San Diego County, California. This study was designed to provide a data set that could be used to evaluate potential effects from the construction and operation of State Route 125 within the broader context of the water quality and air quality in the watershed. The study included regular sampling of water, air, and surficial bed sediment at Sweetwater Reservoir (SWR) for chemical constituents, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), base-neutral and acid- extractable organic compounds (BNAs) that include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), pesticides, and metals. Additionally, water samples were collected for anthropogenic organic indicator compounds in and around SWR. Background water samples were collected at Loveland Reservoir for VOCs, BNAs, pesticides, and metals. Surficial bed-sediment samples were collected for PAHs, organochlorine pesticides, and metals at Sweetwater and Loveland Reservoirs.

To monitor changes in contaminant concentration in water and air at SWR during the construction and operation of State Route 125, this study was divided into three phases. Phase One sampling (September 1998 to September 2004) was designed to establish baseline conditions for target compounds in terms of detection frequency and concentration in air and water. Phase Two (October 2004 to September 2007) continued sampling at selected monitoring sites during construction of State Route 125 to assess any effect from the construction process and the use of heavy equipment to build the roadway. Phase Three (October 2007 to August 2009) continued sampling for 2 years after the opening of State Route 125 to assess the potential changes in water quality related to vehicle emissions from the roadway alignment. Surficial bed-sediment samples were collected three times during the study—at the beginning of the study, at the start of Phase Two, and at the end of the study.

This report describes the study design and the sampling and analytical methods and presents data from water, air, and surficial bed-sediment samples collected from the sixth to eleventh years of the study (October 2003–August 2009), spanning the last year of Phase one and all of Phases Two and Three. Data collected during the first 5 years of sampling have been previously published.

Three types of quality-control samples were used in this study—matrix spikes, blanks, and replicates. Matrix-spike data are considered to be adequate if the recovery concentration is within 30 percent of the matrix concentration. Replicate data are considered to be adequate if the replicate sample concentration is within 30 percent of the environmental sample concentration. Additionally, surrogate compounds were added to most samples to monitor sample-specific performance of the analytical method.

Most VOC matrix-spike recovery data associated with water samples are within acceptable criteria, but three VOCs had recoveries below the acceptable criteria; these compounds may not have been detected in water samples if they were present at low concentrations. Data for blanks associated with water samples for VOCs and metals showed no detections above their laboratory reporting levels. Most replicate data are within acceptable criteria. Quality-control data for VOC air samples resulted in flagging several reported concentrations for acetone, benzene, ethenylbenzene, and naphthalene because they may be biased high. Acetone, benzene, and toluene were detected at low concentrations in almost every VOC air blank. Some PAH and pesticide concentrations in air samples were designated as estimated because of method performance limitations. PAHs in surficial bed sediment had 83 percent of surrogates below the acceptable criteria. No matrix-spike data for metals in surficial bed sediment were outside the acceptable criteria; only beryllium had a replicate comparison outside the acceptable criteria.

Sampling results show concentrations of the gasoline oxygenate methyl tert-butyl ether in water and air samples declined after it was phased out by the State of California in January 2004. The largest concentrations of gasoline hydrocarbons benzene and toluene in water were detected at or near the surface of the SWR. Isophorone and phenol were the two most frequently detected BNA compounds in water. Diuron, prometon, and simazine were the most frequently detected pesticide compounds in water. Concentrations of benzene and toluene in air samples were highest during the cooler months and had a consistent seasonal pattern over time. Ten PAH compounds were detected frequently in air samples. Twelve pesticide compounds were also detected in air samples. Surficial bed-sediment samples were analyzed for 53 PAHs; 22 of the compounds had one or more detections. Surficial bed-sediment samples were analyzed for 22 organic compounds; only 6 compounds had one or more detections. Surficial bed-sediment samples were analyzed for 37 metals.

First posted February 6, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Director, California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6000 J Street, Placer Hall
Sacramento, CA 95829

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Suggested citation:

Mendez, G.O., Majewski, M.S., Foreman, W.T., and Morita, Andrew, 2015, Water- and air-quality and surficial bed- sediment monitoring of the Sweetwater Reservoir watershed, San Diego County, California, 2003–09: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 879, 224 p.,

ISSN 2327-638X (online)




Purpose and Scope

Study Design

Sampling Strategy, Sampling and Analytical Methods, Quality Assurance, and Results


References Cited


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