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Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4328

Assessment of Fish Habitat, Water Quality, and Selected Contaminants in Streambed Sediments in Noyes Slough, Fairbanks, Alaska, 2001-2002

By Ben W. Kennedy, Matthew S. Whitman, Robert L. Burrows, and Sharon A. Richmond


During 2001-2002, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled streambed sediment at 23 sites, measured water quality at 26 sites, and assessed fish habitat for the entire length of Noyes Slough, a 5.5-mile slough of the Chena River in Fairbanks, Alaska. These studies were undertaken to document the environmental condition of the slough and to provide information to the public for consideration in plans to improve environmental conditions of the waterway. The availability of physical habitat for fish in the slough does not appear to be limited, although some beaver dams and shallow water may restrict movement, particularly during low flow. Elevated water temperatures in summer and low dissolved-oxygen concentrations are the principle factors adversely affecting water quality in Noyes Slough. Increased flow mitigated poor water-quality conditions and reduced the number of possible fish barriers. Flow appears to be the most prominent mechanism shaping water quality and fish habitat in Noyes Slough.

Streambed sediment samples collected at 23 sites in 2001 were analyzed for 24 trace elements. Arsenic, lead, and zinc were the only trace elements detected in concentrations that exceed probable effect levels for the protection of aquatic life. The background concentration for arsenic in Noyes Slough is naturally elevated because of significant concentrations of arsenic in local bedrock and ground water. Sources of the zinc and lead contamination are uncertain, however both lead and zinc are common urban contaminants.

Streambed-sediment samples from 12 sites in 2002 were analyzed for organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs). The concentration of bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate of 2,600 micrograms per kilogram (µg/kg) for one sample from the site above Aurora Drive approached the aquatic-life criterion of 2,650 µg/kg. Low concentrations of p-cresol, chrysene, and fluoranthene were detected in most of the sediment samples. The presence of these compounds in Noyes Slough sediment was expected because cresols are emitted to the atmosphere in the exhaust from motor vehicles and chrysene and fluoranthene are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances. Low-level concentrations of DDT or its degradation products DDD and DDE were detected in all samples collected during 2002. However, total DDT (DDT+DDD+DDE) concentrations are less than the effects range median aquatic-life criterion of 46.1 µg/kg. In general, total DDT concentrations were less than 10 µg/kg, except for samples from two sites that have estimated concentrations of about 14 and 20 µg/kg.


Assessment of Fish Habitat
Assessment of Water Quality
Assessment of Selected Contaminants in Streambed Sediments
References Cited

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For additional information contact:

Alaska Science Center, Water Resources Office
U.S. Geological Survey
4230 University Drive, Suite 201
Anchorage, AK 99508-4664

Please visit for more information about USGS activities in Alaska.

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