Water-quality characteristics and contaminants in the rural karst-dominated Spring Mill Lake watershed, southern Indiana


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January 2006


The Spring Mill Lake watershed is located in the Mitchell Plateau, a karst area that developed on Mississippian carbonates in southern Indiana. Spring Mill Lake is a reservoir built in the late 1930s and is located in Spring Mill State Park. Within the park, groundwater from subsurface conduits issues as natural springs and then flows in surface streams to the lake. From 1998 to 2002, surface and subsurface hydrology and water quality were investigated to determine the types and sources of potential contaminants entering the lake. Water samples collected during base flow and a February 2000 storm event were analyzed for selected cations, anions, trace elements, selected U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) primary and secondary drinking-water contaminants, nitrogen isotopes, suspended solids, Escherichia coli, and pesticides. All of the water samples met the EPA drinking-water standards for inorganic constituents, except those collected at five sites in August 1999 during a drought. Nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations were highest during base-flow conditions and displayed a dilutional trend during peak-flow periods. The NO3-N concentrations in water samples collected during the 2001 spring fertilizer applications tended to increase from early to late spring. All of the δ15N values were low, which is indicative of either an inorganic source or soil organic matter. Storm discharge contained increased concentrations of total suspended solids; thus, storms are responsible for most of the sediment accumulation in the lake. E. coli levels in 24% of the samples analyzed contained a most probable number (MPN) greater than 235/100 mL, which is the maximum acceptable level set for recreational waters in Indiana. E. coli does appear to be a potential health risk, particularly at Rubble spring. The sources of E. colifound at this spring may include barnyard runoff from a horse barn or wastes from a wastewater treatment facility. The pesticides atrazine, metolachlor, acetochlor, and simazine were detected during the


Spring Mill Lake, Watershed, Mitchell Plateau, Karst, Mississippian, Carbonates, Southern Indiana, Epa

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Vol. 46 (2006-01-01).