Sulfate and Nitrate Dynamics in the Canacadea Watershed

EPA Grant Number: R828737C006
Subproject: this is subproject number 006 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R830420
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Center for Environmental and Energy Research (CEER)
Center Director: Earl, David A.
Title: Sulfate and Nitrate Dynamics in the Canacadea Watershed
Investigators: Hluchy, Michele M. , McGowan, Garrett J.
Institution: Alfred University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through August 31, 2002
RFA: Targeted Research Center (2000) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Targeted Research


The primary objective in this project is to track nitrate and sulfate ions through a partially disturbed watershed and ultimately, to develop a geochemical map of the watershed, with inputs and outputs for all contributions. It is hoped that this research will provide the knowledge for others to understand the complex relationships between acid precipitation and its effects.


The investigators have collected surface water and ground water (wells) from a range of locations throughout the Canacadea Watershed. With the aid of student researchers during the summer (Adam Gardner and Emily Coppedge) as well as the assistance of Josh Dunn, a number of soil moisture collectors (lysimeters) were put into place and sampling of these sources are now part of our normal operating protocol.

A capillary electrophoresis device was purchased and put on site during April 2001. This instrument will be used as an analytical assurance/control tool once standard methods for the analysis of cations and anions are found for use with this instrument.

An inductively coupled plasma, available for use from the New York State College of Ceramics located at Alfred University, was also used for quality assurance for the quantification of base metal cations to compare to the data acquired using the flame AA device. Both Jeanne and Liane are certified users on this device and the people who have this instrument in their lab have been quite generous with time on the instrument, supplies, and support.

Replicate analysis of samples from each location were run on the ion chromatograph with relative standard deviations at less than three percent and correlation coefficients on calibration curves of certified standards of 0.9900 or better.

Tracking the fate of nitrates and sulfates in the watershed has shown what preliminary results showed of the last few years in that the precipitation which falls has concentrations on the order of 4-5 ppm nitrate and 4-5 ppm sulfate. As the water progresses through the watershed from incident precipitation to a shallow well, the nitrate concentrations become decreased and the sulfate concentrations increase. The samples collected from the shallow well are 2 ppm nitrate and 13 ppm sulfate. And finally, when the water has reached the deep well, the trends in nitrate and sulfate concentrations continue, with nitrate concentrations <2 ppm and sulfate concentrations >30 ppm. What we believe is happening is the water is releasing a mineral which is a sulfate-containing mineral and there is a geologic (or biologic) feature present in the subsurface that is complexing the nitrate, thus preventing it from freely traveling to the deep well with the passing water.

Expected Results:

The mineral make-up of the watershed needs to be completed. This will be done by x-ray powder diffractometry, also available in the New York State College of Ceramics, on core samples that were collected, labeled, and stored when the wells were dug. Analysis of the base metal cation concentration trends will be made as more data are collected. Also, other possible sources of nitrate and sulfate must be identified (such sources may include agricultural run-off) through fall in vegetation, and urban contributions.

Relevant Websites: Exit

Supplemental Keywords:

nitrate ions, sulfate ions, geochemical mapping, Canacadea watershed, lysimeter, ion chromotography, flame atomic absorption, capillary electrophoresis, inductively coupled plasma spectrometer, x-ray powder diffractometry, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Water & Watershed, Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, atmospheric processes, acid precipitation, geochemical map, aquatic ecosystems, ecological indicators, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • Final Report

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R830420    Center for Environmental and Energy Research (CEER)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R828737C001 Environmental Impact of Fuel Cell Power Generation Systems
    R828737C002 Regional Economic and Material Flows
    R828737C003 Visualizing Growth and Sustainability of Water Resources
    R828737C004 Vibratory Residual Stress Relief and Modifications in Metals to Conserve Resources and Prevent Pollution
    R828737C005 Detecting and Quantifying the Evolution of Hazardous Air Pollutants Produced During High Temperature Manufacturing: A Focus on Batching of Nitrate Containing Glasses
    R828737C006 Sulfate and Nitrate Dynamics in the Canacadea Watershed
    R828737C007 Variations in Subsurface Denitrifying and Sulfate-Reducing Microbial Populations as a Result of Acid Precipitation
    R828737C008 Recycling Glass-Reinforced Thermoset Polymer Composite Materials
    R828737C009 Correlating Clay Mineralogy with Performance: Reducing Manufacturing Waste Through Improved Understanding
    R830420C001 Accelerated Hydrogen Diffusion Through Glass Microspheres: An Enabling Technology for a Hydrogen Economy
    R830420C002 Utilization of Paper Mill Waste in Ceramic Products
    R830420C003 Development of Passive Humidity-Control Materials
    R830420C004 Microarray System for Contaminated Water Analysis
    R830420C005 Material and Environmental Sustainability in Ceramic Processing
    R830420C006 Interaction of Sealing Glasses with Metallic Interconnects in Solid Oxide and Polymer Fuel Cells
    R830420C007 Preparation of Ceramic Glaze Waste for Recycling using Froth Flotation
    R830420C008 Elimination of Lead from Ceramic Glazes by Refractive Index Tailoring
    R830420C010 Nanostructured C6B: A Novel Boron Rich Carbon for H2 Storage