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COLBY BI 493 - A Watershed Analysis of Threemile Pond Executive Summary

Course: Bi 493-
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A Watershed Analysis of Threemile Pond Executive SummaryProblems in Environmental Science ClassColby CollegeDecember 4, 2003The Colby Environmental Assessment Team (CEAT) investigated factors influencing thewater quality of Threemile Pond in Kennebec County, Maine, from August through November2003. CEAT analyzed physical and chemical water quality parameters, land use patterns, andthe impact of residential and commercial development to study water quality trends. Datagathered during this study were used to produce models that helped identify the sources ofdegradation most threatening to the current and future water quality of Threemile Pond.These data were also compared to data collected in previous years by the Maine Departmentof Environmental Protection to gain a historical perspective. Water quality is affected by theaccumulation of nutrients, particularly phosphorus, resulting from surface runoff, erosion, andinternal nutrient loading. When concentrations of phosphorus reach threshold levels, a lakemay experience algal blooms that decrease the aesthetic, recreational, ecological, andeconomic value of the lake and adjacent shoreline property. Water quality will improve withthe reduction of external phosphorus loading and the reduction of sediment release ofphosphorus.A brief summary of the CEAT findings in the Threemile Pond study:- Transparency readings and conductivity measurements for Threemile Pond wereconsistent with other eutrophic lakes. The mean transparency reading of 2.9 m was belowthe Maine average (4.8 m) and has declined over time, suggesting continued nutrientloading, which contributes to the annual algal blooms. The mean conductivitymeasurement was 48.2 -MHOs/cm and also above the Maine average, suggesting thatrunoff is contributing particulate matter to Threemile Pond.- Tributaries can be important sources and sinks for nutrients and sediments in a watershed.Both the inlets sampled had higher turbidity, color, and conductivity readings than themean turbidity observed for Threemile Pond. These tributaries appear to be sources ofsediment and dissolved organics for Threemile Pond.- Nitrogen levels were found to be 57 parts per billion (ppb); levels above 200 ppb willstimulate algal growth. Phosphorus levels for Threemile Pond were determined to be 30ppb, which is well above the critical limit of 15 ppb where algal blooms will likely occur.- The average septic suitability in Threemile Pond watershed was determined to be 2.1 on ascale of 1 to 9, where 1 is very suitable. The low slopes are the main reason for this highsuitability. However, soil types found in the watershed as a whole are not ideal for septicsystems. Some mitigation may be necessary when installing new septic systems.- CEAT analyzed past and present land use patterns in the Threemile Pond watershed.ArcGISTM 8.2 was used to create maps of land usage for 1956 and 1998, and a comparisonmap that shows where land use has changed over those 42 years. The acreage of matureforest has decreased since 1956, but the total amount of forested (reverting, transitional,and mature forest) area has increased. Agricultural land has decreased throughout thewatershed. There has been an increase in residential and commercial development.- CEAT found a total of 560 houses in the Threemile Pond watershed. Two hundred andthree of these houses (36 percent of the total houses) are considered shoreline (within 200feet), and 357 (64 percent) are non-shoreline. There are 142 seasonal houses (25 percent ofthe total) and 418 year-round houses (75 percent) in the Threemile Pond watershed.- CEAT data show that Threemile Pond has a large number of mediocre or inadequate bufferstrips. Many old homes do not meet current minimum setback standards and some may have old, overworked, or failing septic systems. - Roads in the watershed contribute disproportionate amounts of the phosphorus load. Paved state and municipal roads contribute approximately 45.12 kg/year and camp roads contribute approximately 29.75 kg/year to the overall load. Though state roads contribute more overall, camp roads are a greater concern for lake health due to their proximity to theshoreline. Several camp roads are in need of basic improvements to limit nutrient runoff, such as grading, crowning, ditching, and diversions- Small commercial development exists in the watershed, and the populations of China,Windsor, and Vassalboro have steadily increased during the past century. Shorelineresidences are thickly clustered in certain parts of Threemile Pond and lots remain largeenough to subdivide. There is every indication that in the future, more people will beliving within the Threemile Pond watershed, and that shoreline development will continue.Poor septic systems are slowly being replaced as homes are renovated and rebuilt. - The primary problem in Threemile Pond is cultural eutrophication. Eutrophication is anatural process, but in this watershed it has been expedited by human practices. Anyremediation must consider all sources of phosphorus. In-lake remediation techniques canbe expensive, but the eutrophic status of Threemile Pond may require such mitigation,provided the external loading of phosphorus is controlled first. The most appropriateforms of remediation for Threemile Pond are: biological management through fish stockmanipulation to control the phytoplankton population; hypolimnetic aeration to preventphosphorus-releasing anaerobic conditions by augmenting dissolved oxygen levels; andwith proper management and specific application, an alum treatment to effectively reducethe amount of phosphorus in the sediment available for release. Further study of thesepossibilities should be considered to determine the best plan of action.The Colby Environmental Assessment Team presentation, “A Watershed Analysis ofThreemile Pond” is available online at: http://www.colby.edu/biology/BI493/ A full report ofthe study will be published and distributed in the spring of


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