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U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
Michigan Water Science Center

 

Prepared in cooperation with the Lake St. Clair Regional Monitoring Project; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; and Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne Counties, Michigan

Water Quality of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and Their U.S. Tributaries, 1946–2005

U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5172

By Denis F. Healy, Douglas B. Chambers, Cynthia M. Rachol, and Richard S. Jodoin

ONLINE ONLY

 


This report is available below as a 92-page PDF for viewing and printing.


Abstract

The St. Clair River/Lake St. Clair waterway forms an international boundary between the United States and Canada. The waters of the area are an important part of the cultural heritage of the area and serves as an important water-supply and power-generating resource; the waterway also supports an economy based largely on recreation, agriculture, and manufacturing. This report was undertaken as part of the Lake St. Clair Regional Monitoring Project for the purpose of providing a comprehensive assessment of the hydrological, chemical, and physical state of the surface water of Lake St. Clair and its tributaries. The data varied in focus and density over the period of compilation which in many cases this variation prevented the completion of statistical analyses because data did not meet minimum comparability or quality requirements for those tests.

 

Comparison of water quality of the Belle, Black, Clinton, and Pine River Basins, as well as basins of minor rivers in the study area, showed that water quality in many of the tributaries, particularly the Clinton River and some of the minor rivers, was degraded compared to the water quality of the St. Clair River/Lake St. Clair waterway. Data analyses included comparison of nutrients, chloride, specific conductance, turbidity, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), and pesticides among the basins and the St. Clair River. Median concentrations of total nitrate were well below the recommended USEPA total nitrogen ambient water-quality criterion of 0.54 mg/L as N for nutrient ecoregion VII for all study-area streams except the Clinton River. More than 93 percent of the phosphorus concentrations for the Belle, Black, Pine and minor river basins and 84 percent of the phosphorus concentrations for the Clinton River Basin are greater than the USEPA recommended ambient total phosphorus criterion of 0.033 mg/L for rivers and streams. Nine chloride concentrations exceeded the USEPA criterion maximum concentration (CMC) for chloride set at 860 mg/L for all study-area streams, with the six largest being in the Belle River Basin. Higher chloride concentrations were increasingly common from 2002 to 2005. The urban minor river basins had the highest median specific conductance, whereas the agricultural Pine River Basin had the lowest median specific conductance. The median values of BOD for the five basins in the study area ranged from 2.4 mg/L for the Pine River Basin to 3.2 mg/L for the Black and Clinton River Basins, whereas the median for the St. Clair River was 0.5 mg/L. In 1985, the highest concentrations of pesticides were found in samples from the mouth of the Clinton River; however, in 1996–98, the majority of high pesticide concentrations were found in samples from the Black River. Changing land-use patterns, specifically conversion of agricultural lands to urban/residential lands in the Clinton River Basin, may explain this difference.

 

Trend analysis was done for four stream sites where adequate data were available. These analyses identified no significant water-quality changes at a stream site on the Black River, where land-use patterns have changed little in the past few decades. This stands in marked contrast to trend analysis for three stream sites in the Clinton River Basin, which has undergone significant land-use change. The changes at the Clinton River stream sites, ranging from 5 to 13 significant trends, were generally decreases in nutrients and increases in total dissolved solids (TDS) and chloride.

 

The greater flow volume of the St. Clair River/Lake St. Clair waterway is able to assimilate incoming dissolved and suspended constituents from tributaries with little effect upon its overall water quality, although incomplete mixing may result in localized water-quality impairment downstream from tributary confluences. Mixing effects on Lake St. Clair water quality was also demonstrated in analysis of Escherichia coli (E. coli) data collected at paired nearshore/offshore sites, which reflected similarity in water quality among many paired sites.

 


Availability

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small image of front cover

 

Whole report (6.54 MB) - 92 pages (8.5” by 11” paper)

 


 

Suggested Citation:

Healy, D.F., Chambers, D.B., Rachol, C.M., and Jodoin, R.S., 2008, Water quality of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and their U.S. tributaries, 1946–2005: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5172, 92 p. Date Posted: January 14, 2008: [https://pubs.water.usgs.gov/sir20075172/]

 


Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

St. Clair River

Lake St. Clair

U.S. Tributary Basins

Water-Quality Data for the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and Their U.S. Tributaries, 1946–2005

Data Sources

Data Description

Data Quality

Water-Quality Characteristics of the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and Their U.S. Tributaries, 1946–2005

Statistical and Graphical Methods

Trend Analysis

Load Estimation

Water-Quality Standards and Criteria

Basin-to-Basin Comparison

Nitrogen

Phosphorus

Chloride

Specific Conductance

Biochemical Oxygen Demand

Pesticides

Water-Quality Trends in the Black and Clinton River Basins

Estimated Loads in the Belle, Black, and Clinton River Basins

Escherichia coli in Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and the U.S. Tributaries

Influence of Red Run on the Clinton River

Interactions between Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River

Lake St. Clair Nearshore and Offshore Sites

Summary and Conclusions

Considerations for Establishing Future Water-Quality Networks

Sampling to Determine Water Quality

Estimating Loads

Detecting Trends

References Cited

Appendix 1-1. Water-quality sites in the Black River Basin and number of samples collected by time period

Appendix 1-2. Water-quality sites in the Belle River Basin and number of samples collected by time period

Appendix 1-3. Water-quality sites in the Pine River Basin and number of samples collected by time period

Appendix 1-4. Water-quality sites in the Clinton River Basin and number of samples collected by time period

Appendix 1-5. Water-quality sites in the minor river basins and number of samples collected by time period

Appendix 2. Escherichia coli concentrations

Figures

1–9. Maps showing:

1. Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and major tributary drainage basins.

2. Streamflow and water-quality data-collection sites of the Lake St. Clair Regional Monitoring Project, Michigan.

3. Land cover in the U.S. drainages to the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair.

4. Water-quality sites in the Black River Basin, Michigan.

5. Water-quality sites in the Belle River Basin, Michigan.

6. Water-quality sites in the Pine River Basin, Michigan.

7. Water-quality sites in the Clinton River Basin, Michigan.

8. Water-quality sites in the minor river basins, Michigan.

9. Streamflow gages and water-quality monitors in the study area and on the St. Clair River, Michigan.


10–17. Graphs showing:

10. Number of water-quality samples collected in the St. Clair River/Lake St. Clair study-area river basins, by year.

11. Number of water-quality sampling sites in the St. Clair River/Lake St. Clair study-area river basins, by year.

12. Nitrate concentrations in the Belle, Black, Clinton, Pine, and minor river basins and the St. Clair River.

13. Dissolved nitrate plus nitrite concentrations in the Belle, Black, Clinton, Pine, and minor river basins and the St. Clair River.

14. Total phosphorus concentrations in the Belle, Black, Clinton, Pine, and minor river basins and the St. Clair River.

15. Chloride concentrations in the Belle, Black, Clinton, Pine, and minor river basins and the St. Clair River.

16. Specific conductance measurements in the Belle, Black, Clinton, Pine, and minor river basins and the St. Clair River.

17. Biochemical oxygen demand concentrations in the Belle, Black, Clinton, Pine, and minor river basins and the St. Clair River.


18. Map showing Macomb County Health Department sites for E. coli, 2000–05.

19. Graphs showing seasonal pattern in E. coli concentrations at selected Macomb County Health Department sites.

20. Map showing locations of Lake St. Clair nearshore/offshore sampling sites with cluster-analysis group membership shown.

21. Graphs showing comparison of chloride and nitrate concentrations among groups of Lake St. Clair offshore/nearshore sampling sites.


2–1—2–14. Boxplots showing: (Appendix 2)

2–1. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the direct tributaries to Lake St. Clair, May to October (2000–05).

2–2. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on Red Run and tributaries, May to October (2000–05).

2–3. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the main stem Clinton River (East), May to October (2000–05).

2–4. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the main stem Clinton River (West), May to October (2000–05).

2–5. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the North Branch Clinton River (West), May to October (2000–05).

2–6. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the North Branch Clinton River (East), May to October (2000–05).

2–7. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on at the Middle Branch Clinton River, May to October (2000–05).

2–8. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the direct tributaries to Lake St. Clair, November to April.

2–9. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on Red Run and tributaries, November to April (2000–05).

2–10. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the main stem Clinton River (East), November to April (2000–05).

2–11. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the main stem Clinton River (West), November to April (2000–05).

2–12. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the North Branch Clinton River (West), November to April (2000–05).

2–13. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the North Branch Clinton River, November to April (2000–05).

2–14. Escherichia coli concentrations for sites on the Middle Branch Clinton River, November to April (2000–05).

Tables

 1. Land use in the Belle, Black, Clinton, and Pine River Basins, Michigan.

 2. Streamflow gages and water-quality monitors in the study area and on the St. Clair River.

 3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency STORET Legacy data center parameter groups.

 4. Water-quality-sampling program, numbers of sampling sites by basin, and sampling time period.

 5. Water-quality standards and criteria.

 6. Water-quality trends at Black River site 740153, 1978–94.

 7. Water-quality trends at Clinton River site 630252, 1972–93.

 8. Water-quality trends at Clinton River site 04165500, 1973–95.

 9. Water-quality trends at Clinton River site 500233, 1974–93.

10. Estimated monthly parameter loads at Belle River site 04160625, June 2004–October 2005.

11. Estimated monthly parameter loads at Black River site 04159492, June 2004–October 2005.

12. Estimated monthly parameter loads at Black River site 04160050, June 2004–October 2005.

13. Estimated monthly parameter loads at Clinton River Site 04160900, June 2004–October 2005.

14. Estimated monthly parameter loads at Clinton River site 04165500, June 2004–October 2005.

15. Estimated monthly parameter loads at Clinton River site 500233, June 2004–October 2005.

16. Estimated annual loads of selected parameters at Clinton River site 500233, 2001–04.

17. Escherichia coli samples collected by the Macomb County Health Department, 2000–05.

18. Percentage of Macomb County Health Department Escherichia coli samples exceeding State of Michigan Rule 62 standards.

19. Macomb County Health Department sites with median Escherichia coli concentrations greater than Rule 62 full contact standard,

May–October (2000–05).

20. Macomb County Health Department sites with median Escherichia coli concentrations greater than Rule 62 partial body contact

standard, November–April (2000–05).

21. Median Escherichia coli concentrations at Macomb County Health Department sites on Clinton River near confluence of Red Run

and in Red Run subbasin.

22. Median of Escherichia coli concentrations at Macomb County Health Department sites along the lower reaches of the Clinton River

and its tributaries.

23. Nearshore and offshore Lake Assessment water-quality sites.

24. Groups of Lake Assessment sites as separated by cluster analyses.

 


For additional information, contact:

U.S. Geological Survey
Michigan Water Science Center
6520 Mercantile Way, Suite 5
Lansing, MI 48911-5991
GS-W-MIlns_DC@usgs.gov

 

or for more information about USGS activities in Michigan, visit the USGS Michigan Water Science Center home page.

 


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