The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Omaha, investigated the water quality of combined sewer overflows, stormwater, and streams in the Omaha, Nebraska, area by collecting and analyzing 1,175 water samples from August 2006 through October 2007. The study area included the drainage area of Papillion Creek at Capeheart Road near Bellevue, Nebraska, which encompasses the tributary drainages of the Big and Little Papillion Creeks and Cole Creek, along with the Missouri River reach that is adjacent to Omaha. Of the 101 constituents analyzed during the study, 100 were detected in at least 1 sample during the study. Spatial and seasonal comparisons were completed for environmental samples. Measured concentrations in stream samples were compared to water-quality criteria for pollutants of concern. Finally, the mass loads of water-quality constituents in the combined sewer overflow discharges, stormwater outfalls, and streams were computed and compared.
The results of the study indicate that combined sewer overflow and stormwater discharges are affecting the water quality of the streams in the Omaha area. At the Papillion Creek Basin sites, Escherichia coli densities were greater than 126 units per 100 milliliters in 99 percent of the samples (212 of 213 samples analyzed for Escherichia coli) collected during the recreational-use season from May through September (in 2006 and 2007). Escherichia coli densities in 76 percent of Missouri River samples (39 of 51 samples) were greater than 126 units per 100 milliliters in samples collected from May through September (in 2006 and 2007). None of the constituents with human health criteria for consumption of water, fish, and other aquatic organisms were detected at levels greater than the criteria in any of the samples collected during this study. Total phosphorus concentrations in water samples collected in the Papillion Creek Basin were in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed criterion in all but four stream samples (266 of 270). Similarly, only 2 of 84 Missouri River samples had total phosphorus concentrations less than the proposed criterion. The proposed total nitrogen criterion for the Corn Belt and Northern Great Plains ecoregion was surpassed in 80 percent of the water samples collected from the stream sites. Samples with total nitrogen concentrations greater than the proposed criterion were most common at Papillion Creek and Big Papillion Creek sites, where the proposed criterion was surpassed in 90 and 96 percent of the samples collected, respectively. Elevated concentrations of total nitrogen were less common at the Missouri River sites, with 33 percent of the samples analyzed having concentrations that surpassed the proposed nutrient criterion for total nitrogen. The three constituents with measured concentrations greater than their respective health-based screening levels were nickel, zinc, and dichlorvos.
Differences in water quality during the beginning, middle, and end of the combined sewer overflow discharge and the stream hydrograph rise, peak, and recession were investigated. Concentrations from the ending part of the combined sewer overflow hydrograph were significantly different than those from the beginning and middle parts for 3 and 11 constituents, respectively. No constituents were significantly different between the beginning and middle parts of the combined sewer overflow discharge hydrograph. For the stream site upstream from combined sewer overflow outfalls on Cole Creek, the constituents with geometric mean values for the hydrograph rise that were at least twice those for the values of the peak and recession were specific conductance, magnesium, nitrite, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), methyl salicylate, p-cresol, and Escherichia coli. Similarly, the constituents where the hydrograph peak was at least twice that for the rise and recession at the upstream Cole Creek site were total suspended solids, silver, an