This study investigates the episodic acidification of Reedy Creek, a wetland-influenced coastal plain stream near Richmond, Virginia. Primary objectives of the study were to quantify the episodic variability of acid- base chemistry in Reedy Creek, to examine the seasonal variability in episodic response and to explain the hydrological and geochemical factors that contribute to episodic acidification. Chemical response was similar in each of the seven storms examined, however, the ranges in concentrations observed were commonly greater in summer/fall storms than in winter/spring storms. An increase in SO4/2- concentration with discharge was observed during all storms and peak concentration occurred at or near peak flow. Small increases in Mg2+, Ca2+, K+ concentrations and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were observed during most storms. At the same time, ANC, Na+ and Cl- concentrations usually decreased with increasing discharge. In summer/fall storms, the absolute increase in SO4/2- concentration was one-third to 15 times the increase observed in winter/spring storms; the decrease in ANC during summer/fall storms was usually within the range of the decrease observed in winter/spring storms. In contrast, the decrease in Na+ and Cl- concentrations during winter/spring storms was much greater than that observed during summer/fall storms. Data show that while base flow anion deficit was higher in summer/fall than in winter/spring, anion deficit decreased during most summer/fall storms. In contrast, base flow anion deficit was lower in spring and winter, but increased during winter/spring storms. Increased SO4/2- concentration was the main cause of episodic acidification during storms at Reedy Creek, but increased anion deficit indicates organic acids may contribute to episodic acidification during winter/spring storms. Changes in SO4/2- concentration coincident with the hydrograph rise indicate quick routing of water through the watershed. Saturation overland flow appears to be the likely mechanism by which solutes are transported to the stream during storm flow.
Additional publication details
Episodic acidification of a coastal plain stream in Virginia