The watershed of Fivemile Creek (FMC), a tributary to the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, is located north of Birmingham, Alabama. Areas that have been previously coal-mined border the creek, and portions of the upper watershed have been and are currently (2007) being used for industrial and urban uses.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the City of Tarrant, the Freshwater Land Trust, and the Jefferson County Commission, conducted a water-quality assessment of 12 sites along FMC during 2003?2005. Water samples were analyzed for basic physical and chemical properties and concentrations of major ions, nutrients, fecal indicator bacteria, organic wastewater compounds, pesticides, trace elements, and semivolatile organic compounds. Streambed-sediment samples were analyzed for concentrations of trace elements and semivolatile organic compounds. Benthic invertebrate communities were evaluated for taxonomic composition and relation to water-quality conditions.
Nutrient concentrations in the FMC watershed reflect the influences of natural and anthropogenic sources. Concentrations of total nitrogen in all samples and total Kjeldahl nitrogen in at least one sample each collected from FMC at Hewitt Park, FMC below Springdale Road, FMC at Lewisburg, FMC near Republic, FMC at Brookside, and FMC at Linn Crossing exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) ecoregion nutrient criteria. Total phosphorus concentrations in about 58 percent of all samples were above the ecoregion nutrient criteria. Concentrations of chlorophyll a, an indicator of algal biomass, in the FMC watershed were below the appropriate USEPA ecoregion criteria.
Fecal indicator bacteria concentrations occasionally exceeded criteria established by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the USEPA to protect human health and aquatic life. Median fecal-coliform concentrations equaled or exceeded USEPA criteria at four of the six sites with multiple samples. Maximum Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentrations usually occurred during high-flow conditions and exceeded the single-sample criterion for infrequently-used whole-body contact (576 colonies per 100 milliliters) at all but one site. Median E. coli concentrations for two of the seven sites with multiple samples exceeded USEPA criteria.
Twenty-nine samples were collected from sites along FMC and analyzed by the USGS National Water Quality Laboratory for the presence of 57 organic wastewater compounds. Forty-six of the 57 organic wastewater compounds, representing all 11 general-use categories, were detected in samples from FMC. All detections of organic wastewater compounds were estimated below laboratory reporting limits except for several detections of the herbicide bromacil.
Herbicides accounted for approximately 62 percent of the number of pesticide detections in the FMC study area. Two herbicides, atrazine and simazine, were detected most frequently, in 100 percent of the surface-water samples. Fipronil sulfide was the most commonly detected insecticide-derived compound, occurring in 52 percent of the surface-water samples. Concentrations of one insecticide, dieldrin, exceeded the USEPA?s health advisory level for drinking water in one sample at FMC at Hewitt Park and in one sample at FMC below Springdale Road. Concentrations of carbaryl in two samples and malathion in one sample exceeded aquatic-life criteria.
Only a few trace element concentrations measured in FMC exceeded established standards or criteria. Some concentrations of aluminum and manganese were above secondary drinking-water standards. One cadmium concentration and three selenium concentrations measured at FMC at Lewisburg exceeded ADEM chronic aquatic-life criteria.
Streambed-sediment samples were collected at seven sites along FMC, and analyzed for selected semivolatile organic compounds and trace elements. Forty-nine of 98 semivolatile organic compounds were detected in stre