Research

Hydrology and Water Quality Monitoring of Baton Rouge City/LSU University Lakes

In 2008, we initiated an intensive water quality monitoring at the Baton Rouge City/LSU University Lakes. The monitoring aims specifically to 1) gain a better understanding of water quality conditions under various impacts of urban runoff, 2) strengthen the capability of higher education and research in hydrology and water quality through utilization of cutting-edge technology, and 3) increase awareness of urban water pollution and encourage community engagement in environmental protection. The lake system comprises of a large open, shallow water body (University Lake) with five small sister lakes, all of which were artificially created from a swampy area when LSU moved its main campus from Alexandria to Baton Rouge in the early 1930s. The surrounding area has been developed for residential and recreational uses, and the lakes have become a symbol for the University and an important outdoor environment for the citizens of the City of Baton Rouge. Protecting water quality of the lakes is crucial to maintain this valuable community resource.

University Lakes

Environment Monitoring Buoy in University Lake (left) and ADV system in the Corporate Canal at Louisiana State University.

In our research and education efforts, we deployed a state-of-the-art environmental monitoring buoy (EMB) in the lake (see photos above). Another monitoring unit was deployed in the nearby canal to investigate urban stormwater runoff characteristics. These systems have been collecting real-time water quality data including water temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and blue green algae concentrations. Furthermore, we deployed data loggers in the inflow and outflow of University Lake to record continuous water level changes. We also took lake bed sediment cores for heavy metal analysis. Currently, our lab possesses the most comprehensive information on long-term hydrology and water quality of the Baton Rouge City/LSU Lakes. We use the data in developing water quality models for this unique urban lake system, as well as in teaching to train students in advanced water resources monitoring and analysis.

Investigation of BTEX and H2S Emission Effects on Water and Soil in Southwest Louisiana

Emissions and releases of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) can occur during oil production and refinery processes. These chemical compounds are known to have harmful effects on human central nervous system and aquatic life (ATSDR, 2004), and media contaminated with these chemicals have been found to include air, water, and soil. The contamination has been a serious concern for residents and environment in surroundings of the petroleum industrial plants.

oil-chemical-investigation

Southwest Louisiana is among the most highly concentrated areas of oil refinery in the country. This area, composing primarily of five parishes including Allen, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, and Jefferson Davis, is home to over 300,000 Louisianans. The area also encompasses one of the world’s largest Chenier plains, a unique coastal formation that provides critical ecosystem functions. The vast and intrinsic waterways in Southwest Louisiana serve as wildlife habitats and stopovers for migrating birds, attracting people from the region and all over the world to fish, hunt, and observe wildlife. There is, however, concern over the harmful effects of BTEX and H2S emissions on human and the precious environment, particularly two major coastal river systems in Southwest Louisiana -- the lower Calcasieu River and the lower Sabine River. This proposed project aims to 1) determine water and soil contamination due to releases and emissions of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, and hydrogen sulfide in the lower Calcasieu River Basin and the Lower Sabine River Basin, Southwest Louisiana; 2) quantify seasonal effects of the toxic chemical compounds on soil and water bodies of the two major river basins; and 3) assess transfer and environmental fate of the toxic chemical compounds in Southwest Louisiana’s rivers and coastal estuaries.

Assessing Sediment Availability for Southeast Louisiana

Southeast Louisiana is beset by two compounding problems: high rates of subsidence and sea level rise which combine to produce a situation known as Relative Sea Level Rise (RSLR). The area’s future RSLR has been predicted to be larger than any other coastal area making Southeast Louisiana increasingly vulnerable to more violent and more frequent storms. These storms will expose coastal communities, sensitive natural areas, businesses, oil, gas, and chemical production and transportation facilities to great risk. To mitigate this risk a proposal has been made to utilize the sediment in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River (MAR) system for land nourishment. This project will first correlate short- and medium-term weather events, river engineering modifications, and land use/land cover changes with sediment supply and distribution variations. Next, future MAR sediment supply and distribution will be explored using these correlations and the effects three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate change scenarios have on weather in the tributary basins. Lastly, sediment yields required for mitigation will be estimated.

oil-chemical-investigation

This project will answer the following questions: how has sediment supply and distribution to the southeast coastal plain of Louisiana been affected by weather, river engineering, and land use/land cover changes in recent decades? How will future sediment delivery be affected by projected climate change? How much sediment is required to mitigate the effects of RSLR?

Effectiveness of Best Management Practices in Louisiana Forested Headwaters

In 2000, the Louisiana Forestry Association, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry developed a manual of Recommended Forestry Best Management Practices for Louisiana. Although these Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) are a combination of management tools with the purpose of reducing nonpoint source (NPS) pollution and have been developed to minimize sediment, nutrient, and organic matter runoff into nearby waterways, it is not known how effective the BMPs actually are in protecting stream water quality in forested areas of the state. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve forestry best management practices (BMPs) and enhance water quality of the streams and bayous in Louisiana forested watersheds. Specifically, the project will 1) Identify sources and quantify the impacts of nutrient and sediment runoff, and the contribution of organic materials to water quality in forested watersheds; 2) Evaluate the effectiveness of Louisiana current forestry BMPs associated with timber harvesting activities; and 3) Develop site-specific best management strategies and guidelines for timber harvesting activities to protect stream water quality and habitat.

oil-chemical-investigation

The research employs a paired watershed, before-after-control-impact (BACI) approach. Since field instrumentation began in November of 2005, water quality and streamflow have been monitored continuously at 11 locations. Later in 2006, four more monitoring locations were added to the program. Benthic macroinvertebrate sampling was conducted three times (spring/fall 2006 and fall 2007) in the pre-harvest period and four times (spring/fall 2008 and spring/fall 2009) in the post-harvest period. Data collected over the past years have allowed for characterization and analysis of ambient conditions, as well as the evaluation of the effectiveness of forestry BMPs in the protection of streamflow, water quality, and benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the headwaters and downstream reaches of the Flat Creek Watershed.