Evaluation of Nitrate Concentrations and Sources in the Elk Creek Watershed, Southwestern Ohio, 2003-2004

Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5223




Nitrate concentrations exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level of 10 milligrams per liter have been reported in ground water near the City of Trenton, Ohio, in the southern part of the Elk Creek watershed. A study of nitrate concentrations and sources in surface and ground water within the Elk Creek watershed was conducted during 2003 and 2004. Nitrate concentrations in the Elk Creek watershed range from less than 0.06 to 11 milligrams per liter. The likely sources of elevated nitrate in the ground water near the City of Trenton appear to be soil organic matter and ammonia fertilizer. Land use is predominantly (93 percent) agricultural, with no identified point sources of nitrate. Likely sources of nitrate in the surface water appear to be manure and septic system effluent, soil organic matter, and ammonia fertilizer. Water-quality constituents, including nitrate, were sampled in water from 38 wells and at 6 surface-water sites. The wells were all shallow (less than 105 feet deep), with open intervals in aquifers of glacial origin, that include tills, outwash, and alluvium. Nitrate concentrations (median of 0.06 milligrams per liter) in the ground water of the upper section of the watershed were lower than those in the lower section of the watershed (median of 4.2 milligrams per liter). Nitrate was analyzed for nitrogen and oxygen isotope values. The d15N and d18O range from -22.36 to +32.29 per mil, and -6.27 to +17.72 per mil, respectively. A positive correlation of d15N and d18O enrichment indicates that denitrification is a prevalent process within the watershed.

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USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of Nitrate Concentrations and Sources in the Elk Creek Watershed, Southwestern Ohio, 2003-2004
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Scientific Investigations Report
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Ohio Water Science Center
iv, 30 p.
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