Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015GA356B

Overland flow-sourced water quality impairment and targeted restoration of natural flow regimes in Proctor Creek, Atlanta, GA

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $17,250 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,012

Principal Investigators: Katie Price, Daniel Deocampo

Abstract: Areas of relic urban and industrial contamination, known as brownfields, are often located within densely populated areas of cities, posing chronic public health and ecological threats due to trace metals and other contaminants. Brownfield soils may repeatedly introduce ace metals to streams during overland flow events. The impervious cover associated with urbanized land uses leads to increases in overland flow, which in turn increases interactions between surface waters and contaminated sites, exacerbating these nonpoint source pollution problems. Green infrastructure strategies are becoming more common, implemented to help restore flow regimes to more natural dynamics, reducing overland flow transport and flood potential. Such engineering efforts require public land acquisition and costly remediation and construction, meaning that determining optimum locations for restoration efforts must be targeted and strategic. The 41 km^2 Proctor Creek watershed is located in western Atlanta, entirely within the city limits. The watershed has a storied human and biotic exposure history that involves numerous brownfield sites, and documented trace metal concentrations in excess of recommendations. These problems are worsened by the drastically altered flow regime due to high effective impervious area, with substantial overland flow and a more ‘flashy’ flow regime than other highly urbanized watersheds within the Atlanta area. The mobilization and transport of metals from these contaminated sites affects not only the Proctor Creek watershed, as effects propagate downstream through the Chattahoochee River system. This proposed research will bridge stated research needs of federal, state, city, private sector, and academic stakeholders. The overall objective is to complete data collection and analysis to guide spatial targeting of brownfield remediation and natural flow restoration throughout the watershed, using a novel combination of methods. Specific objectives are to 1) use a system-wide approach to assess overland flow, flashiness, and geochemical contamination throughout the watershed; 2) use statistical methods to identify hotspots of flow alteration and water quality impairment; and 3) use watershed modeling to optimize locations for green infrastructure and flow restoration. Methods will incorporate continuous streamflow monitoring at 20+ locations throughout the Proctor Creek watershed, soil hydrological analyses, trace metal analysis of stream water, overland flow, stream bed sediments, and soils, along with green infrastructure scenario exploration using a spatially-explicit watershed model. The methods and results of this research will be transferable to other impaired watersheds in Georgia.