A Natural History of Millbrook Marsh,
A Wetland In An Urbanizing Setting

Water Quality

Water quality in Millbrook Marsh and the associated streams has improved in some ways, yet decreased in other ways. The sewage treatment plant at University Drive and East College Avenue, in operation since about 1913, ceased input of treated sewage effluent into Thompson Run in 1983 (J. Gaudlip, pers. comm.). The effluent is now piped out and spray irrigated elsewhere. The input of stormwater, though, is increasing as more of the drainage area acreage is developed with impervious surfaces. The result is an increase in stormwater contaminants and an increase in discharge amount and velocity during storm events, causing more scouring, erosion, sedimentation and possibly water table drawdown. The integrity of the water in Millbrook Marsh is affected by the actions and pollutants mainly associated with stormwater at this time. Those things generally impacting water quality include: dust accumulated during dry periods such as atmospheric pollutants on roofs, traffic emissions from roads and parking areas, solids from road deterioration, vehicle and tire wear including vehicle fluids, road salts, leaking septic tanks, detergents from car washing, leaking or illegal dumping of oil and other fluids, herbicides and pesticides from lawn and garden care, erosion of drainage channels, buildup of solids in sewers, and litter (Novotny 1995). The stormwater received by Thompson Run from the University lands includes coal pile runoff from the PSU-West Power Plant during rain events (J. Gaudlip, pers. comm.). The power plant was built some time in the 1930’s, and until about 1987 or 1988, the stormwater going into Thompson Run also included continuous input of boiler blowdown, condenser cooling water, intermittent input of softener recycle water and cooling tower blowdown as well as the coal pile runoff (Metcalf and Eddy 1961, Bureau of Water Quality Management 1989).

The present condition of Millbrook Marsh is shown by data gathered in the summer and autumn of 1997. As well as the typical heavy metals and petroleum derivatives in the stormwater entering Thompson Run, there is substantial sediment load originating in the ditch that conveys stormwater from the discharge pipes to the Duck Pond. This stormwater ditch consists of vertical unvegetated banks of approximately 2.5 m which continue to erode and add sediments to the stormwater. Impaired water quality from the input of urban stormwater runoff is the most likely cause for the moderate degradation in the macroinvertebrate communities at 5 of 6 stations throughout the marsh (Chapter 7). The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Rapid Bioassessment Protocol III (RBP III) was used to determine the condition of the macroinvertebrate community of Millbrook Marsh and is a good indication of aquatic ecosystem health. RPBIII measures the amount of degradation of stream communities due to pollution, compared to an unaffected reference site, and results in one of 4 Bioassessment categories ranging from "Non Impaired" to "Severely Impaired". Overall, RBP III suggests a moderate departure from good water quality for streams within Millbrook Marsh (Table 3-2) (Brooks et al. 1998).

Table 3-2. Summary of EPA Rapid Bioassessment Protocol III for macroinvertebrate sampling stations within Millbrook Marsh, July, 1997 (Brooks et al. 1998).

 

Stations

Raw Scores:

1

2

3

4

5

6

Ref

Taxa Richness

11

16

10

21

17

11

19

Modified HBI

5.91

4.18

5.49

5.46

5.59

5.86

4.05

Scrapers/Filterers

0.18

0.36

0.02

1.73

0.08

0.24

30.50

EPT/Chironomidae

0.26

3.80

0.81

0.26

0.12

0.21

1.46

% Dominant Taxon

47.67

40.73

44.81

52.00

43.09

52.79

36.20

EPT Index

2

7

4

6

4

4

10

Community Loss Index

1.27

0.94

1.30

0.57

0.71

1.18

---

Percent Comparison to Reference:
Taxa Richness

57.89

84.21

52.63

110.53

89.47

57.89

---

Modified HBI

68.53

96.89

73.77

74.18

72.45

69.11

---

Scrapers/Filterers

0.59

1.18

0.07

5.67

0.26

0.79

---

EPT/Chironomidae

17.81

260.27

55.48

17.81

8.22

14.38

---

% Dominant Taxon

47.67

40.73

44.81

52.00

43.09

52.79

---

EPT Index

20.00

70.00

40.00

60.00

40.00

40.00

---

Community Loss Index

1.27

0.94

1.30

0.57

0.71

1.18

---

Biological Condition Scores:
Taxa Richness

2

6

2

6

6

2

6

Modified HBI

2

6

4

4

4

2

6

Scrapers/Filterers

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

EPT/Chironomidae

0

6

4

0

0

0

6

% Dominant Taxon

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

EPT Index

0

2

0

0

0

0

6

Community Loss Index

4

4

4

4

4

4

6

Totals

8

24

14

14

14

8

38

Bioassessment
(impairment level):
NI = Not Impaired
S = Slight
M = Moderate

M

S

M

M

M

M

NI

Historical water quality data for Millbrook Marsh includes sporadic testing of Slab Cabin Run, Thompson Run and Bathgate Spring Run from surveys conducted from 1941 through 1990. Data for Thompson Run and Slab Cabin Run below the confluence with Thompson Run reflect the sewage effluent input from State College Borough and the Pennsylvania State University until cessation in 1983. The historical data for Millbrook Marsh is from various reports from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania State University theses, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Two stations along Slab Cabin Run in Millbrook Marsh were among the sampling locations for the water collection of May 1980 (PennDOT 1981). Historical data for Slab Cabin Run from 1972 to 1980 was also collected by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and compared to the 1980 data. Water quality data collected in May 1980 and the data from 1972 to 1980 included dissolved oxygen concentration, turbidity, nitrate concentration, total nitrogen concentration, total and ortho-phosphorus, total suspended solids, chloride, sodium, fecal coliform bacteria, pH, and oil and grease concentrations (PennDOT 1981).

Spring Creek and its tributaries, including Slab Cabin Run, Thompson Run, and Bathgate Spring Run, are designated at least Cold Water Fish (CWF) streams (Bureau of National Affairs 1994). Slab Cabin Run is designated a High Quality Cold Water Fish stream from the source until its first crossing with PA Route 26 in the Pine Grove Mills area. The critical use for Slab Cabin Run, Thompson Run and Bathgate Spring Run is considered to be aquatic life. The criteria designated to protect aquatic life is given in the following water quality data (Bureau of National Affairs 1994).

Dissolved Oxygen

The criteria for the level of dissolved oxygen in Cold Water Fish streams to protect aquatic life is a minimum daily average of 6.0 mg/l.

Dissolved oxygen levels on January 15, 1959 at 1:00 pm were 6.80 mg/l at Slab Cabin Run and Route 545 (now Route 26, East College Avenue), and 8.72 mg/l at Thompson Run and Rte 545 (Spring Creek Surveys 1959) (Table 3-3). The level in 1959 in Slab Cabin Run was between 7.3 and 8.5 mg/l in October and November (McDonnell 1960). Levels of dissolved oxygen in 1960 for Thompson Run and Slab Cabin Run were sampled around the clock on October 25 and 26. Samples were taken between 4:10 am and 11:40 pm. The dissolved oxygen levels in Thompson Run below the Duck Pond ranged from 6.20 to 5.40 mg/l. The average of the 4:00 am to 6:00 am samples taken between October 5 and November 11, 1960 was 5.10 mg/l. Slab Cabin Run, at Route 545 average was 8.67 mg/l with a range from 12.45 to 10.70 on October 25 and 26 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961). June 8, 1962 sampling occurred at about 12:15 pm and showed dissolved oxygen levels in Thompson Run at Route 545 to be 8.2 mg/l and showed Slab Cabin Run to be 2.6 mg/l (Vrenna 1962). Levels in May 1980 were at or near saturation, more than 2 mg/l higher than the state minimum level. Slab Cabin Run, about 90 m above the Thompson Run confluence (PennDOT Station 3), was 10.8 mg/l and was 10.2 mg/l about 230 m from East College Avenue (PennDOT Station 4) (PennDOT 1981). An elementary school class surveyed Slab Cabin Run in October 1986, and found levels of 14mg/l, 12.3mg/l, and 13.6mg/l at three locations within the marsh. July 1989 data showed an improvement in the dissolved oxygen levels of Thompson Run after the cessation of the treated sewage effluent input. Approximately 300 m below Route 26, the dissolved oxygen level was 9.8 mg/l. Slab Cabin Run at about 800 m before the confluence with Thompson Run was 10.80 mg/l (Hughey, 1990).

Table 3-3
Dissolved Oxygen Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1959-1989.

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Jan. 1959 (Spring Creek Surveys 1959)

8.72mg/l

     
Oct. and Nov. 1959 (McDonnell 1960)

7.3-8.5mg/l

     
Oct. 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

12.45-10.70 mg/l

   

6.2-5.4mg/l

Oct. Nov. 1960(Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

8.67mg/l

   

5.1mg/l

June 1962 (Vrenna 1962)    

2.6mg/l

8.2mg/l

May 1980 (PennDOT 1981)

10.8mg/l
10.2mg/l

     
1986 (Elementary School Report 1986)    

14.0mg/l
12.3mg/l
13.6mg/l

 
July 1989 (Hughey 1990)

9.8mg/l
10.8mg/l

     

CWF Criteria Minimum daily average of 6.0 mg/l.

Turbidity

The standard method of determining turbidity in the past has been the Jackson candle turbidimeter, resulting in units of JCU, or Jackson Candle Units. These are also labeled JTU, or Jackson Turbidity Units, and no conversion is needed between the two (S. McGonigal and K. Confer, pers. comm.). One JTU represents the amount of light intercepted by 1 mg/l of a standard sand. The lowest turbidity value that can be measured, though, is 25 JTU. Because of this, the standard method has become based upon the electronic nephelometer, resulting in NTU, or Nephelometric Turbidity Units. JTU’s approximate, but are not truly equal to NTU’s (Brown 1980). The maximum contamination level of turbidity for CWF aquatic life is not more than 100 NTU from September 16 to May 14 and not more than 40 NTU between May 15 and September 15 of any year (Bureau of National Affairs 1994).

Water chemistry data for July 11 and 13, 1978 showed turbidity of Thompson Run at 6 JCU and Slab Cabin Run less than 5 JCU (Miller 1979) (Table 3-4). On July 5-7, 1989, turbidity was 6.80 NTU in Slab Cabin Run and 4.00 NTU in Thompson Run (Hughey 1990). Turbidity levels were moderate for the historical and 1980 data, which was 25 JTU at PennDOT Station 3 and 27 JTU at PennDOT Station 4. At all other Spring Creek and Slab Cabin Run stations during the 1980 testing the turbidity levels were between 4.8 and 9.3 JTU (PennDOT 1981).

Table 3-4
Turbidity Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1978-1989

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

July 1978 (Miller 1979)    

5 JCU

6 JCU

1980 (PennDOT 1981)

25 JTU
27 JTU

     
July 1989 (Hughey 1990)    

6.8 NTU

4 NTU

Nitrogen

The allowable level of ammonia nitrogen for CWF streams and aquatic life is calculated for each water sample. The criteria is dependent upon temperature and pH, and must be calculated using values taken between July and September. The maximum level of nitrate plus nitrite is 10 mg/l as nitrogen (Bureau of National Affairs 1994).

In January 1959, ammonia was 16.0 (Table 3-5) and Kjeldahl nitrogen was 41.7 (Table 3-6) in Thompson Run. The assumed units for this data, since it was not given, is lb/d, pounds per day. Kjeldahl nitrogen is the measure of both organic and ammonia nitrogen, and so at least equal to the amount of organic nitrogen. In Slab Cabin Run, ammonia was 3.6 and Kjeldahl nitrogen was 50.0 (Spring Creek Survey 1959). The assumed units for this data also is lb/d since in October 1960 at Thompson Spring the total amount of nitrogen, organic and inorganic, was 4.38 mg/l or 136.5 lb/d and at Bathgate Springs it was 2.25 mg/l or 12.1 lb/d (Metcalf and Eddy 1961). Ammonia in 1960 in Thompson Run was at 5.4 mg/l and 8.1 mg/l, Kjeldahl nitrogen at 11.0 mg/l and the nitrate level was 0.27 mg/l (Table 3-7). For Slab Cabin Run, ammonia was 0.4 mg/l above the confluence with Thompson Run and 6.2 mg/l below it. Kjeldahl nitrogen was 0.8 mg/l above and 7.4 mg/l below the confluence. Nitrate was 0.08 mg/l above and 0.29 mg/l below Thompson Run. Bathgate Spring Run in the northwest corner of Millbrook Marsh near the bend in Puddintown Road, had an ammonia level of 0.21 mg/l, Kjeldahl nitrogen was 0.9 mg/l, and nitrate was 0.46 mg/l (Metcalf and Eddy 1961). Thompson Run was tested in 1963 between 12:00 pm January 15 and 9:00 am January 16, 1963. Nitrate levels were between 1.50 and 2.75 mg/l (Goodwin 1963). In July 1978 Thompson Run levels of nitrate were 4.84 and 5.06. Ammonia was 2.2 and 1.1. In Slab Cabin Run, nitrate was 3.74 and ammonia was 0.07 (Miller 1979). Units for the 1978 nitrogen data were not given. Assumed units are mg/l. In 1980, nitrate levels were moderate at 1.80 mg/l for PennDOT Stations 3 and 4. Total nitrogen was 0.5 and 0.6 mg/l for Stations 3 and 4 respectively (PennDOT 1981). The October 1986 data showed nitrate levels at 0.1mg/l, 0.1 mg/l and 0.4 mg/l. The most recent nitrogen data found was recorded in July 1989. Nitrate in Slab Cabin Run was 1.92 mg/l and ammonia was 0.04 mg/l. In Thompson Run, nitrate was 2.88 mg/l and ammonia 0.14 mg/l (Hughey 1990).

Table 3-5
Ammonia Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1959-1989

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

January 1959 (Spring Creek Survey 1959)

3.6 lb/day

   

16 lb/day

 
October 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

0.4 mg/l

6.2 mg/l

 

5.4 mg/l
8.1 mg/l

0.21 mg/l

July 1978 (Miller 1979)    

0.07 mg/l

2.2 mg/l
1.1 mg/l

 
July 1989 (Hughey 1990)    

0.04 mg/l

0.14 mg/l

 

Table 3-6
Kjeldahl Nitrogen in Millbrook Marsh Streams and Springs, 1959-1980

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thomp-son Run

Bathgate Spring Run

Thompson Spring

Bathgate Springs

January 1959 (Spring Creek Survey 1959)

50.0 lb/day

   

41.7 lb/day

     
October 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

0.8 mg/l

7.4 mg/l

 

11.0 mg/l

0.9 mg/l

4.38 mg/l
136.5 lb/day

2.25 mg/l
12.1 lb/day

1980 (PennDOT 1981)

0.5 mg/l
0.6 mg/l

           

Table 3-7
Nitrate Nitrogen in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1960-1989

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

           
October 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

0.08 mg/l

0.29 mg/l

 

0.27 mg/l

0.46 mg/l

January 1963 (Goodwin 1963)      

1.50 - 2.75 mg/l

 
July 1978 (Miller 1979)    

3.74 mg/l

4.84 mg/l
5.06 mg/l

 
1980 (PennDOT 1981)

1.80 mg/l

       
October 1986 (unpublished school report)    

0.1 mg/l
0.1 mg/l
0.4 mg/l

   
July 1989 (Hughey 1990)    

1.92 mg/l

2.88 mg/l

 

Phosphorus

There was no maximum contamination level criteria regarding phosphorus for Pennsylvania CWF streams, nor were there maximum levels of phosphorus for Pennsylvania drinking water.

The 1960 surveys showed the level of total phosphorus in Thompson Run was 4.0 mg/l, Upper Slab Cabin Run was 0.4 mg/l, Lower Slab Cabin Run was 3.9 mg/l and Bathgate Spring Run was 0.06 mg/l (Table 3-8). Ortho-phosphorus was 2.3 mg/l in Thompson Run, 0.09 mg/l in Upper Slab Cabin Run, 1.9 mg/l in Lower Slab Cabin Run, and 0.6 mg/l in Bathgate Spring Run (Metcalf and Eddy 1961) (Table 3-9). In 1962, Thompson Run phosphate level was 3.1 mg/l, and Slab Cabin Run, below the confluence with Thompson Run, was 4.0 mg/l (Vrenna 1962) (Table 3-10). The January 1963 level of phosphate in Thompson Run ranged from 4.4 to 9.7 mg/l (Goodwin 1963). In 1980 ortho-phosphorus levels were below detectable limits (<0.01 mg/l) and total phosphorus was 0.8 mg/l at Station 3 and 0.10 mg/l at Station 4 (PennDOT 1981). In 1986, the phosphate level of Slab Cabin Run directly after the Rte. 26 bridge was 0.4 mg/l, and undetected at the other two stations (unpublished school report). On July 5-7, 1989, total phosphorus was 0.07 mg/l in Slab Cabin Run, and 0.06 mg/l in Thompson Run (Hughey 1990).

Table 3-8
Total Phosphorus Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1960-1989

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

October 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

0.4 mg/l

3.9 mg/l

 

4.0 mg/l

0.06 mg/l

1980 (PennDOT 1981)

0.8 mg/l
0.10 mg/l

       
July 1989 (Hughey 1990)    

0.07 mg/l

0.06 mg/l

 

Table 3-9

Ortho-phosphorus Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1960-1980

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

October 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

0.09 mg/l

1.9 mg/l

 

2.3 mg/l

0.6 mg/l

1980 (PennDOT 1981)

< 0.01 mg/l

       

Table 3-10
Phosphate Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1962-1986

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

1962 (Vrenna 1962)  

4.0 mg/l

 

3.1 mg/l

 
January 1963 (Goodwin 1963)      

4.4 - 9.7 mg/l

 
October 1986 (unpublished school report)

0.4 mg/l

       

Chloride

The Pennsylvania water quality standards criteria for chloride was listed for 4 uses only, not including the critical use "Aquatic Life". For the critical use of "Special Protection", a maximum of 150 mg/l chloride is given. For the critical use "Water Supply, the maximum is 250 mg/l (Bureau of National Affairs 1994). The other 2 uses were those that apply only to selected portions of the Delaware River Basin.

The chemical testing of January 1963 showed a range of 15 to 22 mg/l chloride in Thompson Run (Goodwin 1963) (Table 3-11). In July 1978, the chloride level in Thompson Run was 33 mg/l, and in Slab Cabin Run, chloride was 18 mg/l. The 1980 chloride levels in Slab Cabin Run, were 5.8 mg/l at PennDOT Station 3 and 6.4 mg/l at PennDOT Station 4 (PennDOT 1981). In July 1989, chloride in Thompson Run was 31 mg/l and in Slab Cabin Run it was 14 mg/l (Hughey 1990).

Table 3-11
Chloride Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1963-1989

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

January 1963 (Goodwin 1963)      

15 - 22 mg/l

 
July 1978 (Miller 1979)    

18 mg/l

33 mg/l

 
1980 (PennDOT 1981)

5.8 mg/l
6.4 mg/l

       
July 1989
(Hughey 1990)
   

14 mg/l

31 mg/l

 

Fecal Coliform

As with chloride, there is no criteria for fecal coliform levels regarding aquatic life in Cold Water Fish streams. For "Recreation (including aesthetics)", from May 1 through September 30, the maximum fecal coliform level is a geometric mean of 200/100ml based on 5 consecutive samples from different days. For the remainder of the year the level is the geometric mean of 2,000/100ml. The criteria for use as a water supply is a maximum of 5,000/100ml as a monthly average value (Bureau of National Affairs 1994).

In January 1959 fecal coliform count was 24,000 in Thompson Run at the Duck Pond Dam, 2,400 just below Route 545, and 240,000 in Slab Cabin Run (Spring Creek Surveys 1959) (Table 3-12). The units, not given for the 1959 data, are assumed to be cts/100ml. The 1980 levels of fecal coliform bacteria were very high, at 583 cts/100ml at PennDOT Station 3 and 572 cts/100ml at PennDOT Station 4 (PennDOT 1981).

Table 3-12
Fecal Coliform Levels in Millbrook Marsh Streams, 1959-1980

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

January 1959 (Spring Creek Survey 1959)    

240,000 cts/100ml

24,00 cts/100ml

 
1980 (PennDOT 1981)

583 cts/100ml
572 cts/100ml

       

pH

There are 2 criteria given for pH for CWF streams for the protection of aquatic life. The pH should be from 6.0 to 9.0 inclusive or from 7.0 to 9.0 inclusive (Bureau of National Affairs 1994).

A 1941 stream survey recorded the pH at Thompson Run at 4 different locations with regard to the sewage effluent input pipe (Donley 1941). The pH above the effluent pipe was 7.9, at the mouth of the pipe it was 7.15, below the pipe and also at the mouth of the stream it was 7.8 (Table 3-13). In January 1959, the field determined pH of Thompson Run was 8.0 below Route 545 and Slab Cabin Run was 7.4 (Spring Creek Surveys 1959). In 1960, Thompson Spring was 7.7, Thompson Run after the Duck Pond was 8.2, and below Route 545 the pH was 7.8. The pH of Slab Cabin Run below Route 545 was 8.3 and Bathgate Spring Run was 7.7 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961). In July 1962, Thompson Run pH was 7.7 and Slab Cabin Run was 7.6 (Vrenna 1962). July 1978 pH of Thompson Run just after Route 545 was 8.0, and was 7.8 just before Slab Cabin Run. Slab Cabin Run pH was 8.4 (Miller 1979). In 1980 the pH at PennDOT Station 3 was 5.8 and at PennDOT Station 4 it was 6.0 (PennDOT 1981). The pH of the first 19 m of Thompson Run was 7.2 in 1983 and 1984 (Miller 1985). In an unpublished elementary school project from the files of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the 1986 pH of Slab Cabin Run measured 7.5 at the station closest to Puddintown Road, and 8 at the other two stations. In November and December of 1987, the pH of Thompson Run was 7.9 and 8.3, and Slab Cabin Run was 8.3 and 8.7 (Bureau of Water Quality Management 1989). Most recently, July 1989 pH of Thompson Run was 7.7 and Slab Cabin Run was 7.4 with 7.6 determined in the field (Hughey 1990). In the summer of 1995, the pH of the calcareous fen water was 7.6, 7.5, and 7.2 at 3 locations within the fen area (Western Pennsylvania Conservancy 1995).

Table 3-13
pH of Millbrook Marsh Streams and Springs, 1941-1989

 

Upper Slab Cabin Run

Lower Slab Cabin Run

Slab Cabin Run - reach not specified

Thompson Run

Bathgate Spring Run

Thompson Spring

Fen Springs

April 1941 (Donley 1941)      

7.9
7.15
7.8

     
January 1959 (Spring Creek Survey 1959)    

7.4

8.0

     
October 1960 (Metcalf and Eddy 1961)

8.3

7.8

 

8.2
7.8

7.7

7.7

 
1962 (Vrenna 1962)    

7.6

7.7

     
July 1978 (Miller 1979)    

8.4

8.0
7.8

     
1980 (PennDOT 1981)

5.8

6.0

           
October 1986 (unpublished school report)

8.0

7.5

         
November and December 1987 (Bureau of Water Quality Management 1989)    

8.3

8.7

7.9

8.3

     
July 1989 (Hughey 1990)    

7.4
7.6

7.7

     
Summer 1995 (Western PA Conservancy)            

7.6
7.5
7.2

Other Contaminants

The only available sodium data is from 1980 at which time the level was 5.2mg/l at PennDOT Station 3 and 5.3 mg/l at PennDOT Station 4. Petroleum products, oil and grease, were very high at 4.2 mg/l and 3.9 mg/l (PennDOT 1981). In 1987, abnormally high levels of total dissolved solids, metals, and phenolics were found in discharges into Thompson Run (Bureau of Water Quality Management 1989).

Water quality in Thompson Run and Slab Cabin Run was greatly compromised by the input of the Pennsylvania State University Sewage Treatment Plant effluent and stormwater from about 1913 until the cessation of the sewage effluent input in 1983. By 1980, Thompson Run was receiving four-fifths of State College’s treated sewage effluent (PennDOT 1981). The 1961 report to the Spring Creek Committee by Metcalf and Eddy Engineers confirmed the fact that the effluent discharge into Thompson Run caused general deterioration of Spring Creek. Thompson Run and Slab Cabin Run showed significant quantities of BOD, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and had profuse aquatic plant growths in some reaches. This stemmed from the sewage effluent input (Metcalf and Eddy 1961). The water quality of Thompson Run, Slab Cabin Run, Spring Creek, the Pennsylvania State University Sewage Treatment Plant and the University Area Joint Authority Sewage Treatment Plant was investigated again in 1978. The report concluded that in general, the 3 streams had improved chemically since the 1960’s, reflected by lower levels of BOD, ammonia-nitrogen and phosphate, probably because of improved treatment at the Pennsylvania State University Sewage Treatment Plant, but that specifically, Thompson Run had not improved much. Biologically the condition was similar to that of 1959 (Miller 1979).

The PennDOT report concluded that concentrations such as those of oil and grease, phosphorus, and low pH could affect survival of some aquatic species if the levels remained for extended time periods (PennDOT 1981). Thompson and Slab Cabin Runs continue to receive increasing amounts of stormwater runoff from roads and the surrounding urban areas and neighborhoods.

Numerous fish kills and other contamination events have been reported to the Pennsylvania Fish Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. On April 14, 1972, an investigation was initiated on a fish kill in Thompson Run and Slab Cabin Run to their confluence with Spring Creek. A Centre County Waterways Patrolman, Paul Antolosky, reported that 200-300 minnows, 3 trout, a few goldfish, and 140 suckers were killed. "The pollution probably was caused by some substance in the storm sewers (rather than PSU STP effluent)", but though water samples were taken and analyses made of pH and metals, the cause of the kill was undiscovered (Hemmerly 1972, p. 1). Another report of an acute pollution incident occurred on August 31, 1990, which resulted in a fish kill in Thompson Run immediately downstream of the Duck Pond to the area adjacent to the Route 26 bridge. The source of the pollution was determined to be the White Building Swimming Pool of the University (Burger 1990). There was some residual chlorine odor in the affected area of Thompson Run, and evidently the contamination was carried into Thompson Run via the stormwater outlets. These are examples of reported contaminations; undoubtedly other incidents occur without investigation.

On to Stream Morphology and Discharge