Combined use of rapid bioassessment protocols and sediment quality triad to assess stream quality

Physical, chemical and biological conditions at five stations on a small southeastern stream were evaluated using the Rapid Bioassessment Protocols (RBP) and the Sediment Quality Triad (SQT) to assess potential biological impacts of a municipal wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) on downstream resources. Physical habitat, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish assemblages were impaired at Stations 1 and 2 (upstream of the WWTF), suggesting that the degraded physical habitat was adversely impacting the fish and benthic populations. The SQT also demonstrated that Stations 1 and 2 were degraded, but the factors responsible for the impaired conditions were attributed to the elevated concentrations of polycylclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals (Mn, Pb) in the sediments. The source of contaminants to the upper reaches of the stream appears to be storm-water runoff from the city center. Increased discharge and stabilized base flow contributed by the WWTF appeared to benefit the physically-altered stream system. Although the two assessment procedures demonstrated biological impairment at the upstream stations, the environmental factors identified as being responsible for the impairment were different: the RBP provided insight into contributions associated with the physical habitat and the SQT contributed information on contaminants and sediment quality. Both procedures are important in the identification of physical and chemical factors responsible for environmental impairment and together they provide information critical to the development of appropriate management options for mitigation.

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