Effects of the H-3 Highway Stormwater Runoff on the Water Quality of Halawa Stream, Oahu, Hawaii, November 1998 to August 2004

Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5034

Prepared in cooperation with the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation



Since November 1998, water-quality data have been collected from the H-3 Highway Storm Drain C, which collects runoff from a 4-mi-long viaduct, and from Halawa Stream on Oahu, Hawaii. From January 2001 to August 2004, data were collected from the storm drain and four stream sites in the Halawa Stream drainage basin as part of the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation Storm Water Monitoring Program. Data from the stormwater monitoring program have been published in annual reports. This report uses these water-quality data to explore how the highway storm-drain runoff affects Halawa Stream and the factors that might be controlling the water quality in the drainage basin. In general, concentrations of nutrients, total dissolved solids, and total suspended solids were lower in highway runoff from Storm Drain C than at stream sites upstream and downstream of Storm Drain C. The opposite trend was observed for most trace metals, which generally occurred in higher concentrations in the highway runoff from Storm Drain C than in the samples collected from Halawa Stream. The absolute contribution from Storm Drain C highway runoff, in terms of total storm loads, was much smaller than at stations upstream and downstream, whereas the constituent yields (the relative contribution per unit drainage basin area) at Storm Drain C were comparable to or higher than storm yields at stations upstream and downstream. Most constituent concentrations and loads in stormwater runoff increased in a downstream direction. The timing of the storm sampling is an important factor controlling constituent concentrations observed in stormwater runoff samples. Automated point samplers were used to collect grab samples during the period of increasing discharge of the storm throughout the stormflow peak and during the period of decreasing discharge of the storm, whereas manually collected grab samples were generally collected during the later stages near the end of the storm. Grab samples were analyzed to determine concentrations and loads at a particular point in time. Flow-weighted time composite samples from the automated point samplers were analyzed to determine mean constituent concentrations or loads during a storm. Chemical analysis of individual grab samples from the automated point sampler at Storm Drain C demonstrated the ?first flush? phenomenon?higher constituent concentrations at the beginning of runoff events?for the trace metals cadmium, lead, zinc, and copper, whose concentrations were initially high during the period of increasing discharge and gradually decreased over the duration of the storm. Water-quality data from Storm Drain C and four stream sites were compared to the State of Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) water-quality standards to determine the effects of highway storm runoff on the water quality of Halawa Stream. The geometric-mean standards and the 10- and 2-percent-of-the-time concentration standards for total nitrogen, nitrite plus nitrate, total phosphorus, total suspended solids, and turbidity were exceeded in many of the comparisons. However, these standards were not designed for stormwater sampling, in which constituent concentrations would be expected to increase for short periods of time. With the aim of enhancing the usefulness of the water-quality data, several modifications to the stormwater monitoring program are suggested. These suggestions include (1) the periodic analyzing of discrete samples from the automated point samplers over the course of a storm to get a clearer profile of the storm, from first flush to the end of the receding discharge; (2) adding an analysis of the dissolved fractions of metals to the sampling plan; (3) installation of an automatic sampler at Bridge 8 to enable sampling earlier in the storms; (4) a one-time sampling and analysis of soils upstream of Bridge 8 for base-line contaminant concentrations; (5) collection of samples from Halawa Stream during low-flow conditions

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Effects of the H-3 Highway Stormwater Runoff on the Water Quality of Halawa Stream, Oahu, Hawaii, November 1998 to August 2004
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Version 1.0
Year Published:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
Pacific Islands Water Science Center
viii, 78 p.
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