Surface-water quality in Pequea Creek basin, Pennsylvania, 1977-79

Water-Resources Investigations Report 85-4250




A study of the Pequea Creek basin was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the EPA from February 1977 through March 1979. Pequea Creek drains an intensive agricultural area of 154 sq mi in southeastern Pennsylvania, and enters the Susquehanna River 30 mi north of the Chesapeake Bay. The study included measurement of streamflow and collection of water and bottom material samples from seven sites in the basin during selected base flows and storms. Water samples were collected daily at a site near the mouth of Pequea Creek, and analyzed for suspended sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus species, organic carbon, and pesticides. Some groundwater samples also were collected and analyzed for nitrate. Annual yields measured from the basin during the study period were 1,950 ton/sq mi for suspended sediment, 13.8 ton/sq mi for total nitrogen, and 1.8 ton/sq mi for phosphorus. These yields are five times higher than any previously measured in the Susquehanna River basin. The discharges of all constituents monitored increased with increasing flow, indicated that a large amount of material in the basin is available for transport to streams during storms. The large yields of nitrogen and phosphorus are probably caused by the intensive agriculture in the basin coupled with large applications of fertilizer and manure to farm fields. Chemical analyses of rainfall samples indicate that precipitation was not a significant source of nitrogen and phosphorus. Excluding nitrate, all constituents measured were transported mainly during storms. Nitrate concentrations during base flow were as high as 10 mg/L as N--the Environmental Protection Agency standard for domestic water supplies. Groundwater sampled from farm wells had nitrate concentrations up to 28 mg/L as N. The largest concentrations of herbicides detected in Pequea basin were for 2,4-D, atrazine, and simazine. The maximum concentrations observed during storms were 1.2, 24, and 5.4 micrograms/L, respectively. The insecticides chlordane and DDT had mean concentrations of 0.02 and 0.01 micrograms/L, respectively. Lindane, PCB, and heptachlor slightly exceed maximum limits during storms. (Lantz-PTT)

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Surface-water quality in Pequea Creek basin, Pennsylvania, 1977-79
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Pennsylvania Water Science Center
v, 66 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.
United States