During the 14-year period from August 1949 to July 1963, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of Philadelphia, collected samples of river water once each month in the 43-mile reach of the Delaware River from Bristol to Marcus Hook, Pa., and daily at Trenton, 10 miles upstream from Bristol. This part of the Delaware is an estuary into which salt water is brought by tides; fresh water flows into the estuary at Trenton, NJ, and farther downstream from the Schuylkill River and other tributaries of the Delaware.
In March, April, and May, when fresh-water flow is high, the average concentration of dissolved solids in the water at Bristol was 76 ppm (parts per million), and at Marcus Hook 112 PPM In August and September, streamflow is lower, and the average concentration of dissolved solids increased to 117 PPM at Bristol and 804 PPM at Marcus Hook. Major salinity invasions of the Delaware River occurred in 1949, 1953, 1954, 1957, and 1963. In each of these years the fresh-water flow into the tidal river at Trenton was low during the period from July to October. The greatest dissolved-solids concentrations in these monthly samples were 160 PPM at Bristol and 4,000 PPM at Marcus Hook.
At times the dissolved-oxygen concentration of the river water has become dangerously low, especially in that reach of the river between Wharton Street and League Island. At the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, one-third of the samples of river water were less than 30 percent saturated with oxygen; however, no trend, either for better or for worse, was apparent during the 14-year period.
It is useful now to summarize these monthly analyses for the period 1949-63 even though a much more detailed description of water quality in this reach of the estuary will soon become available through the use of recording instrumental conditions. This compendium of water-quality data is useful as an explicit statement of water quality during the 14-year study period and is valuable for directing attention to water-quality problems for selecting instrument sites, and for making comparative studies with the more detailed information which is already being obtained with the aid of recording instruments.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Delaware River water quality Bristol to Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, August 1949 to December 1963