The water quality of the West Branch Lackawaxen River and the limnology of Prompton Lake in northeastern Pennsylvania were studied from October 1986 through September 1987 to determine past and present water-quality conditions in the basin, and to determine the possible effects of raising the lake level on the water quality of the Lake, of the river downstream, and of ground water.
Past and present water quality of the West Branch Lackawaxen River and Prompton Lake generally meets State standards for high-quality waters that sup- port the maintenance and propagation of cold-water fishes. However, suggested criteria by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intended to control excessive algal growth in the lake are exceeded most, if not all, of the time for nitrogen and most of the time for phosphorus.
The average annual total nitrogen load entering the lake is 114 tons. Of this total, 41 tons is inorganic nitrate plus nitrate, 48 tons organic nitrogen, and 25 tons ammonia nitrogen. Estimated annual yields of total nitrogen, inorganic nitrite plus nitrate, organic nitrogen, and ammonia nitrogen are 1.9, 9.7, 0.8, and 0.4 tons/mi2 (tons per square mile), respectively. The average annual phosphorus load is estimated to be 4.7 tons, which is equivalent to a yield of 0.08 tons/mi2. About 62 percent, or 2.9 tons, is dissolved phosphorus that is readily available for plant assimilation. The waters of the West Branch Lackawaxen River and Prompton Lake are decidedly phosphorus limited.
The long-term average annual suspended-sediment yield to the lake is about 70 tons/mi2. Life expectancy of the 774 acre-feet of space allocated for sediment loads in the raised pool is estimated to be about 287 years.
During the 1987 water year, about 51 percent of the annual sediment load was transported during 7 days by storm-water runoff. The maximum sediment discharge during the study period was 400 tons per day.
Lake-profile studies show that thermal and chemical stratification develops in early June and persists through September. Water below a depth of about 20 feet becomes anoxic, or nearly so, by mid-July.
Summer concentrations of chlorophyll are indicative of eutropic conditions. Although raising of the lake level is expected to increase the efficiency of the lake in trapping nutrients, the increased depth and volume will reduce the concentrations of available nutrients and, thereby, reduce the eutrophication potential of the lake.
The water level in about 30 wells near the lake probably will rise after the lake level is raised, and the well yields probably will increase slightly. Flow of water form the lake to the aquifer as the lake is being raised may temporarily increase mineral content of water in the aquifer. After a new equilibrium is reached, however, water will again flow from the aquifer to the lake, thereby restoring the aquifer's water quality.