The presence and distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and inorganic elements in water and lakebed materials and the potential for bioconcentration in biota at established sampling sites on Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona

Open-File Report 2013-1299
By: , and 



The National Park Service is responsible for monitoring the effects of visitor use on the quality of water, lakebed material (bottom sediments), and biota, in Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona. A sampling program was begun in 2010 to assess the presence, distribution, and concentrations of organic and inorganic compounds in the water column and bottom sediment. In response to an Environmental Impact Statement regarding personal watercraft and as a continuation from previous studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, water samples were collected and analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) using semipermeable membrane devices and inorganic elements using a fixed-bottle sampler deployed at established monitoring sites during 2010 and 2011. Lakebed material samples were also analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and inorganic elements, some of which could be harmful to aquatic biota if present at concentrations above established aquatic life criteria.

Of the 44 PAH compounds analyzed, 26 individual compounds were detected above the censoring limit in the water column by semipermeable membrane devices. The highest number of compounds detected were at Lone Rock Beach, Wahweap Marina, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and Antelope Marina which are all located in the southern part of Lake Powell where visitation and boat use is high. Because PAHs can remain near their source, the potential for bioconcentration is highest near these sites. The PAH compound found in the highest concentration was phenol (5,902 nanograms per liter), which is included in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priority pollutants list.

The dissolved inorganic chemistry of water samples measured at the sampling sites in Lake Powell defined three different patterns of elements: (1) concentrations were similar between sites in the upper part of the lake near Farley Canyon downstream to Halls Crossing Marina, a distance of about 36 lake miles, (2) concentrations varied depending on the element between Halls Crossing Marina downstream to the mouth of the Escalante River, a distance of about 33 lake miles, and (3) concentrations were similar between sites from below the mouth of the Escalante River to Glen Canyon Dam, a distance of about 68 lake miles.

Analysis of lakebed bottom sediment material samples detected PAH compounds at all sampling sites except at Halls Crossing Marina, Stanton Creek, and Forgotten Canyon. Twenty-four of 44 PAHs analyzed in lakebed material were detected above the reporting limit. Perylene was the most prevalent compound detected above the reporting limit in lakebed material and was detected at three sampling sites. Concentrations of perylene ranged from an estimate of 24.0 to 47.9 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg). Fluoranthene had the highest concentration of any PAH and was detected at the Wahweap Marina with a concentration of 565 μg/kg. The highest sum of concentrations for all compounds found in lakebed material samples at one site was at the Wahweap Marina, which had concentrations five times higher than the next highest site.

The three major tributaries to Lake Powell—the Colorado, Escalante, and San Juan Rivers—all showed elevated concentrations of inorganic elements in their delta sediments for most elements relative to the majority of the sediment samples taken from the lake itself. However, there were four lake sites that had concentrations for most inorganic elements that equaled or exceeded those of the tributaries. Two of these sites were at the northeast part of the lake, nearest to the Colorado River as it enters Lake Powell (Farley Canyon and Blue Notch Canyon), one was at the Escalante River below 50-Mile Canyon, and other was at Antelope Marina.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title The presence and distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and inorganic elements in water and lakebed materials and the potential for bioconcentration in biota at established sampling sites on Lake Powell, Utah and Arizona
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2013-1299
DOI 10.3133/ofr20131299
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 27 p.; Appendixes A-K
Country United States
State Arizona;Utah
Other Geospatial Glen Canyon National Recreation Area;Lake Powell
Projection Universal Transverse Mercator projection
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page