In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, sampled streambed sediments and surface water of the Meduxnekeag River watershed in northeastern Maine under various hydrologic conditions for nutrients, hydrophobic organic compounds, and mercury. Nutrients were sampled to address concerns related to summer algal blooms, and organic compounds and mercury were sampled to address concerns about regional depositional patterns and overall watershed quality. In most surface-water samples, phosphorus was not detected or was detected at concentrations below the minimum reporting limit. Nitrate and organic nitrogen were detected in every surface-water sample for which they were analyzed; the highest concentration of total nitrogen was 0.75 milligrams per liter during low flow. Instantaneous nitrogen loads and yields were calculated at four stations for two sampling events. These data indicate that the part of the watershed that includes Houlton, its wastewater-treatment plant, and four small urban brooks may have contributed high concentrations of nitrate to Meduxnekeag River during the high flows on April 23-24 and high concentrations of both organic and nitrate nitrogen on June 2-3. Mercury was detected in all three bed-sediment samples for which it was analyzed; concentrations were similar to those reported from regional studies. Notable organic compounds detected in bed sediments included p,p'-DDE and p,p'-DDT (pesticides of the DDT family) and several polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and phthalates were not detected in any sample, whereas p-cresol was the only phenolic compound detected. Phosphorus was detected at concentrations below 700 milligrams per kilogram in each bed-sediment sample for which it was analyzed. Data were insufficient to establish whether the lack of large algal blooms in 2003 was related to low concentrations of phosphorus.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Nutrients, organic compounds, and mercury in the Meduxnekeag River watershed, Maine, 2003