Effects of advanced treatment of municipal wastewater on the White River near Indianapolis, Indiana; trends in water quality, 1978-86

Water Supply Paper 2393

ORCID iD and



The City of Indianapolis has constructed state-of-the-art advanced municipal wastewater-treatment systems to enlarge and upgrade the existing secondary-treatment processes at its Belmont and Southport treatment plants. These new advanced-wastewater-treatment plants became operational in 1983. A nonparametric statistical procedure--a modified form of the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney rank-sum test--was used to test for trends in time-series water-quality data from four sites on the White River and from the Belmont and Southport wastewater-treatment plants. Time-series data representative of pre-advanced- (1978-1980) and post-advanced- (1983--86) wastewater-treatment conditions were tested for trends, and the results indicate substantial changes in water quality of treated effluent and of the White River downstream from Indianapolis after implementation of advanced wastewater treatment. Water quality from 1981 through 1982 was highly variable due to plant construction. Therefore, this time period was excluded from the analysis. Water quality at sample sites located upstream from the wastewater-treatment plants was relatively constant during the period of study (1978-86). Analysis of data from the two plants and downstream from the plants indicates statistically significant decreasing trends in effluent concentrations of total ammonia, 5-day biochemical-oxygen demand, fecal-coliform bacteria, total phosphate, and total solids at all sites where sufficient data were available for testing. Because of in-plant nitrification, increases in nitrate concentration were statistically significant in the two plants and in the White River. The decrease in ammonia concentrations and 5-day biochemical-oxygen demand in the White River resulted in a statistically significant increasing trend in dissolved-oxygen concentration in the river because of reduced oxygen demand for nitrification and biochemical oxidation processes. Following implementation of advanced wastewater treatment, the number of river-quality samples that failed to meet the water-quality standards for ammonia and dissolved oxygen that apply to the White River decreased substantially.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Effects of advanced treatment of municipal wastewater on the White River near Indianapolis, Indiana; trends in water quality, 1978-86
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Indiana Water Science Center
iv, 23 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Upper White River Basin
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):