Abstract

The Chattahoochee River is the principal source of drinking water for metro-Atlanta. The river receives urban runoff and sewage discharge and is in an area of rapid growth in both urban sprawl and the poultry industry. Data was collected weekly at a sample station 50 mi (80 km) downstream of Atlanta for 310 days during a drought in 1999–2000 and again for 290 days during abundant rainfall in 2002–2003. Field parameters, fecal coliform bacteria, and nutrients were measured. One spill in 2000 of 1.5 million gal (5700 m 3) of sewage that occurred 50 mi (80 km) upstream of our sample station resulted in a nitrate-N spike. Nitrite-nitrate-N was elevated during drought (low-flow) conditions. It is difficult to quantify the role of chicken manure on water quality of an already impaired watershed. Nevertheless, nutrient runoff from chicken manure application on farmland increases total phosphorus load of streams. U.S. Geological Survey data for the Chattahoochee River indicate that although corrective measures have decreased phosphorus and ammonia, nitrite-nitrate-N has increased from 0.24 mg/l in 1971 to 2.3 mg/l in 2002.

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