Continuous-record water-level gages were established at three sites on Mountain Island Lake and one site downstream from Mountain Island Dam. The water level of Mountain Island Lake is controlled by Duke Power Company releases at Cowans Ford Dam (upstream) and Mountain Island Dam (downstream). Water levels on Mountain Island Lake measured just downstream from Cowans Ford Dam fluctuated 11.15 feet during the study. Water levels just upstream from the Mountain Island Lake forebay fluctuated 6.72 feet during the study. About 3 miles downstream from Mountain Island Dam, water levels fluctuated 5.31 feet.
Sampling locations included 14 sites in Mountain Island Lake, plus one downstream river site. At three sites, automated instruments recorded water temperature, dissolved-oxygen concentration, and specific conductance at 15-minute intervals throughout the study. Water temperatures recorded continuously during the study ranged from 4.2 to 35.2 degrees Celsius, and dissolved-oxygen concentrations ranged from 2.1 to 11.8 milligrams per liter. Dissolved-oxygen concentrations generally were inversely related to water temperature, with lowest dissolved-oxygen concentrations typically recorded in the summer. Specific conductance values recorded continuously during the study ranged from 33 to 89 microsiemens per centimeter; however, mean monthly values were fairly consistent throughout the study at all sites (50 to 61 microsiemens per centimeter). In addition, vertical profiles of water temperature, dissolved-oxygen concentration, specific conductance, and pH were measured at all sampling locations during 24 site visits.
Water-quality constituent concentrations were determined for seven reservoir sites and the downstream river site during 17 sampling trips. Water-quality samples were routinely analyzed for biochemical oxygen demand, fecal coliform bacteria, hardness, alkalinity, total and volatile suspended solids, nutrients, total organic carbon, chlorophyll, iron, calcium, and magnesium; the samples were analyzed less frequently for trace metals, volatile organic compounds, semivolatile organic compounds, and pesticides. Maximum dissolved nitrite plus nitrate concentrations determined during the study were 0.348 milligram per liter in the mainstem sites and 2.77 milligrams per liter in the coves. Maximum total phosphorus concentrations were 0.143 milligram per liter in the mainstem sites and 0.600 milligram per liter in the coves. Fecal coliform and chlorophyll a concentrations were less than or equal to 160 colonies per 100 milliliters and 13 micrograms per liter, respectively, in all samples. Trace metals detected in at least one sample included arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc, and antimony. Concentrations of all trace metals (except zinc) were 5.0 micrograms per liter or less; the maximum zinc concentration was 80 micrograms per liter.
One set of bottom material samples was collected from Gar Creek and McDowell Creek for chemical analysis and analyzed for nutrients, trace metals, organochlorine pesticides, and semivolatile organic compounds. The only organochlorine pesticide identified in either sample was p,p'-DDE at an estimated concentration of 0.8 microgram per kilogram. Twenty semivolatile organic compounds, mainly polyaromatic hydrocarbons and plasticizers, were identified.