Patterns and Sources of Anthropogenic Contaminants in the Otter Creek Watershed, Madison County, Kentucky By Elijah D. Wolfe Submitted to Walter S. Borowski Department of Geosciences Eastern Kentucky University Undergraduate Thesis May
Stream systems are often affected by anthropogenic activities that affect water quality and stream ecosystems. Land use typically determines the type and quantity of anthropogenic contaminants entering natural waters. The Otter Creek watershed (170 km2; Madison County, Kentucky) consists predominantly of pasture and rural housing, with some cropland. The basin also receives runoff from the town of Richmond and a sewage treatment plant operates within the watershed. We measured concentrations of nutrients (phosphate, ammonium, nitrate) and fecal microbes to discover levels of anthropogenic contaminants affecting water quality and to identify contaminant sources.
We sampled 4 times in the summer field season of 2015 over a variety of conditions. Nutrients were measured colorimetrically using established colorimetric methods. The abundance of Escherichia coli was quantified using IDEXX rapid-assay techniques.
Phosphate (0 – 0.5 mg/L) and ammonium (
Both point- and non-point sources exist for contaminants. The sewage treatment plant is a definite point source for nitrate and less so for phosphate and ammonium. Non-point sources include high concentrations of nitrate, phosphate, and fecal microbes occur along Dreaming Creek, likely due to leaky sewage distribution pipes. Spikes in ammonium concentration are associated with cattle pasture, another non-point source.
We also tested contaminant levels immediately before and after a rainfall event associated with tropical storm Bill (June 22). Phosphate and ammonium levels decreased, whereas nitrate increased significantly. E. coli counts also increased dramatically, after the rain event.
Semester/Year of Award
Walter S. Borowski
Mentor Department Affiliation
Restricted Access Thesis
Wolfe, Elijah D., "Patterns and Sources of Anthropogenic Contaminants in the Otter Creek Watershed, Madison County, Kentucky By Elijah D. Wolfe Submitted to Walter S. Borowski Department of Geosciences Eastern Kentucky University Undergraduate Thesis May" (2016). Geosciences Undergraduate Theses. 10.