Final Report: Patroon Creek Watershed Monitoring, Management and Restoration Program

EPA Grant Number: R828578
Title: Patroon Creek Watershed Monitoring, Management and Restoration Program
Investigators: Simcoe, William D. , Arnason, John , Davis, Nate
Institution: City of Albany, NY , The State University of New York at Albany , W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center
EPA Project Officer: Stevens, Madalene
Project Period: November 30, 2001 through December 1, 2003
Project Amount: $643,614
RFA: Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking (EMPACT) (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Environmental Statistics , Water , Ecosystems , Air , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objective of this research project was to collect water quality data along the Patroon Creek, identify pollutants that pose a hazard to public health, and post water quality data on the Internet and at public kiosks.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

We provided time-relevant air and water quality data from the Patroon Creek watershed to community groups, students, planners, resource professionals, and others. This objective was achieved by the completion of three principal tasks:

  1. installation of a stream gauge by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to provide real-time stage, discharge, temperature, and specific conductance data;
  2. design and implementation of a water quality monitoring program to measure systematically time-relevant water quality parameters at several sites over the 2-year grant period and beyond;
  3. and design and construction of a Web site to display real-time gauge and air quality data as well as time-relevant water quality data.

Stream gauge installation was completed in September 2002 and stage data were reported from September 30, 2002 to July 6, 2004. After development of a stage-discharge rating curve, discharge data were reported from October 18, 2002 to July 6, 2004. Temperature and specific conductance equipment were installed later, and data for these parameters were reported from December 4, 2002 to July 6, 2004. All gauge data is real-time; that is, the data are collected continuously at 15-minute intervals and transmitted by telemetry to the USGS Web Site, which is in turn linked to the project Web site ( Exit .

Water quality was monitored weekly at seven sites along the creek between June 11, 2002 and June 15, 2004. Data collected weekly included water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, major anion and cation concentrations, alkalinity, and bacteria concentrations (total coliform, Escherichia coli, and heterotrophic platelet count). The database is more than 97 percent complete with sampling gaps resulting from inclement weather and temporary site inaccessibility because of snow and other hazardous conditions. Although major ion data are not directly time-relevant, they can be correlated with real-time specific conductance such that the latter measurement can be used in real time as a proxy for major ions. For example, it is possible to make real-time predictions of major ion concentrations such as chloride and sodium during winter storms based on historical relations between specific conductance and chloride and sodium ion concentrations.

The W. Haywood Burns Environmental Education Center Web Site is designed and constructed to display real-time and time-relevant data to community members. Real-time data includes the gauge data described above, as well as air-quality monitoring data collected and published by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) at three air monitoring sites in the capital district region. Both gauge and air data Web sites are linked directly to the project Web site. The time-relevant and other data are displayed in table and graphical form through an interactive user interface.

Air and water quality data were disseminated to the community through an innovative and interactive Internet site and at three interactive kiosk displays located in the community. The kiosks run “Kiosk-in-a-Box” Ó software by Rocky Mountain Multimedia, Inc. The kiosks are located at the Albany Public Library, Albany High School, and Livingston Middle School. These sites are located at or near the watershed and are accessible to all members of the target community. The Web site features maps, photos, text, and audio describing the watershed, as well as interactive display of real-time and time-relevant air and water quality data. Users may generate graphs of selected data and download data in various formats. The kiosk displays contain all the information found on the Web site except the real-time data. The kiosks can be updated on a periodic basis.

Formation of an Environmental Restoration Program

Monitoring and assessment data collected during the project period provide a basis for developing a long-term plan for environmental restoration of the watershed. At present, the restoration plan includes several objectives:

  1. cleanup of contaminated sediments;
  2. “daylighting” the creek;
  3. enhancing forested and riparian buffer zones;
  4. improving road de-icing practices;
  5. and renovating municipal infrastructure (e.g., sanitary sewer lines).

Sediment Cleanup. Activity at two former industrial sites has resulted in contamination of watershed soils and sediments by heavy metals and other chemicals. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 currently is conducting a remedial investigation/feasibility study of the mercury-contaminated sediment in Patroon (3-mile) Reservoir. These sediments were contaminated by discharge from the Mereco site, which has been partially remediated. The Army Corps of Engineers currently is remediating the former National Lead Industries (NLI) depleted uranium site. In response to a State University of New York–Albany study (Arnason and Fletcher, 2003) the Army Corps has completed a Site Investigation Report that addresses contamination of offsite sediments in Patroon Creek. The site investigation found uranium contamination in sediments that was below their cleanup criteria for most locations; however, two locations within the creek near the NLI site contain uranium concentrations above the criteria. The Corps is reviewing these sites for further action. The participants in this Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking study will continue to monitor and comment on the cleanup activities at both sites. Our goal is to ensure that the cleanup process adequately addresses long-term ecological and human health issues. Details on sediment contamination in the watershed are found in Arnason and Fletcher, 2003 and 2004.

Creek Daylighting. Approximately 40 percent of the length of Patroon Creek lies in underground conduits. We are exploring options for “daylighting” underground portions of the creek channel to mitigate flooding, improve water quality, develop riparian habitat, and improve recreation opportunities. Arnason and Robinson have a pending grant proposal with the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program to explore daylighting the creek in the vicinity of the Tivoli Lakes Preserve. At present, the creek flows underground in a 72-inch diameter conduit through the preserve. During flooding, the conduit capacity is exceeded, and floodwaters erode a new channel through contaminated fill material directly into Tivoli Lake. These floodwaters carry contaminated sediment into the lake and threaten water and sewer mains in the vicinity. Creating a permanent surface channel will increase the carrying capacity of the creek, create opportunities for adding riparian habitat, and improve sport fishing, nature observation, and other recreational opportunities in this urban park.

Enhancing Buffer Zones. Large riparian forested areas exist at the headwaters (Pine Bush Preserve) and just below the knickpoint (Tivoli Lakes Preserve). In addition, our mapping project resulted in the identification of two additional riparian zones between the larger ones. Our data indicate that surface water nitrate concentrations show small but significant decreases as the stream passes through these natural riparian buffer zones. These results suggest that preservation (or enhancement) of the existing buffer zones will lead to water quality preservation (or improvement). Details of the buffer zone study can be found in Audette (2004) and Madden (2004).

Road De-Icing. A major finding of our water quality measurements is the large temporal and spatial variation of sodium and chloride concentrations in the creek. High concentrations of sodium and chloride, as well as high specific conductance, are correlated with road de-icing salt application (principally sodium chloride) during winter months. The highest dissolved salt concentrations occur in a tributary that drains an area with high road and parking lot density. Dissolved salt concentrations remain elevated during summer months (total Cl > 100 ppm) because of storage of salt-contaminated water in the 6-mile Reservoir. Currently, we are in discussions with the NYS Department of Transportation about a collaborative study that would compare the effects of various salt application methodologies on surface water dissolved salt concentrations. We anticipate that more efficient and discriminating application of salt by municipal and private contractors will result in a reduction in surface water concentrations. Details of our analysis of road salts can be found in Erickson, 2004.

Infrastructure Improvements . Our data have documented declines in coliform bacteria concentrations following planned sanitary sewer improvements within the watershed. We anticipate that these improvements will continue as part of the restoration process.

We evaluated the risk to individual residents by electronically documenting particular environmental hazards and their proximity to the community and enabled health professionals and researchers to target and treat populations at risk throughout the affected community. The principal environmental risks to human health in the Patroon Creek watershed that have been measured and/or documented include:

  1. coliform bacteria in surface water;
  2. mercury contamination in watershed soils, sediments, and fish;
  3. lead, uranium, and other heavy metal contamination in soils and sediments;
  4. and air pollution.

We are in the process of assembling all relevant data on these potential health risks. The data will be posted on the project Web site for use by health professionals and the community at large.

We also empowered the low-income minority community of Arbor Hill as it began the process of inventorying its natural resources. Audette (2004) contains maps and descriptions of riparian buffer zones and forested ecosystems located along Patroon Creek that have the potential for restoration. This thesis also contains data on benthic macroinvertebrate diversity that are a measure of water quality.

As the project concludes, we are reaching out to municipalities and community groups that were not included in the original consortium. These include the NYS Department of Transportation, the town of Colonie, the Albany County Sewer District, and Citizens Concerned about National Lead. We plan to include these groups in future activities including development of a watershed management plan.

This research project represents both an environmental study of water quality in a small urban watershed as well as an experiment in collaborative research among a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including municipal agencies, community groups, and university scientists. Our success in working together has resulted in more efficient and cost-effective data collection, reduction or elimination of data duplication, and creation of a clearinghouse for all relevant environmental data in the watershed. In addition, each stakeholder makes a unique contribution to the effort. Town and city officials provide technical resources and knowledge of infrastructure details that impact environmental quality and human health. Community members provide first-hand information about environmental problems, citizens’ concerns, and knowledge of human behaviors that link environmental problems to health, such as fish consumption patterns. University scientists and students provide low-cost technical expertise and analytical resources to the community that otherwise would not be available. The project also benefits all consortium members by strengthening existing lines of communication and creating new ones. The results of our project have increased our understanding of the transport and fate of road de-icing chemicals in urban watersheds and the potential effects of riparian buffer restoration on improving water quality.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other project views: All 22 publications 1 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Type Citation Project Document Sources
Journal Article Arnason JG, Fletcher BA. A 40+ year record of Cd, Hg, Pb, and U deposition in sediments of Patroon Reservoir, Albany County, NY, USA. Environmental Pollution 2003;123(3):383-391. R828578 (Final)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: ScienceDirect-Full Text HTML
  • Abstract: ScienceDirect-Abstract
  • Other: ScienceDirect-Full Text PDF
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    Escherichia coli, metals, effluent, remediation, risk assessment, chemical transport, organics, bacteria, community-based, environmental chemistry, pathogens, health effects, ecological effects, human health, toxics, nitrogen oxides, sulfates, aquatic, habitat, survey, public good, biology, ecology, hydrology,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, estuarine research, Water & Watershed, Restoration, Monitoring/Modeling, Wet Weather Flows, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecological Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Mercury, Watersheds, monitoring, risk assessment, wetlands, eutrophication, aquatic ecosystem, environmental restoration, estuaries, watershed, coastal zone, downstream effects, precipitation monitoring, continuous monitoring, conservation, aquatic degradation, restoration strategies, hydrology, Patroon Creek, ecosystem health, environmental indicators, environmental stress, water quality, ecosystem restoration, combined sewer overflows, water management options, storm drainage, stormwater runoff, watershed assessment, real-time monitoring, watershed restoration, storm water, groundwater pollution

    Relevant Websites: Exit Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
    2002 Progress Report
    2003 Progress Report