Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014MS191B

Water Quality in Bangs Lake: effects of recurrent phosphate spills to a coastal estuary

Institute: Mississippi
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $24,963 Total Non-Federal Funds: $52,998

Principal Investigators: Kevin Dillon

Abstract: Two large phosphate spills have occurred from Mississippi Phosphate Corporation (a fertilizer production facility) to the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves (GBNERR) Bangs Lake since 2005. Following these spills, phosphate concentrations in surface waters rose from near zero to as high as 7mg L-1 and pH dropped dramatically from an average of ~7.5 to near 3.7. Less dramatic changes in phosphate concentrations and pH were measured at other regularly sampled stations nearby, and large fish kills also occurred throughout the Reserve. There is also evidence of potential continuous input of phosphate to Bangs Lake from smaller ongoing spills or dry deposition. These events and the obvious biological impacts to the waters of a protected NERR warrant further investigation. This proposal addresses four basic questions developed by the Phosphate Working Group to assess the water quality impacts of repeated phosphate spills on an otherwise relatively undisturbed estuarine ecosystem. (1) What is the fate of phosphorus after a spill (Where does it go)? (2) Is there a detectable preserved sedimentary record of past phosphorus spills? (3) Is there a biological fertilizer effect on microalgal production? (4) Is dry deposition of gypsum particles from the fertilizer plant a source of phosphorus to the Reserve? The proposed research project addresses the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institutes Water Quality research priority area. This project will train six undergraduate students to collect and analyze environmental samples and conduct pertinent experiments using established methods to learn about chemical and biological processes that occur in coastal ecosystems. A graduate student from the University of Southern Mississippis Gulf Coast Research Lab with field and laboratory experience using these methods will be trained to coordinate and oversee much of the work conducted by the summer interns.