Pollutant Source Tracking Studies


Pollution in Durham's streams can harm the health of insects and fish that live in the stream. The majority of streams in Durham flow into either Jordan or Falls Lake. The water quality in Durham impacts everyone downstream. The Water Quality group monitors our streams' health with monthly sampling. Sometimes when pollutants are found the pollutant source isn't obvious. In order to prevent these issues in the future, we perform special pollutant source tracking studies to eliminate and prevent future pollution.

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  2. 2
  1. Sandy Creek Tributary A
  2. Warren Creek


Sandy Creek Tributary A starts at Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy and crosses University Drive. This section of the creek has very low dissolved oxygen. Dissolved oxygen supply is important in a creek because this is what fish and aquatic animals breathe to survive. Waterways with low dissolved oxygen, like Sandy Creek Tributary A, can't support the aquatic life that would normally be found there. 

In order to understand why this stream has such low dissolved oxygen we monitored the water quality at a number of different sites, assessed the stream condition, performed a thermal imaging survey, and performed a microbial source tracking study. We found that this section of the creek is impacted by high rates of stormwater runoff, low base flow, sewer leaks, and groundwater with especially low dissolved oxygen entering the stream. 

This creek's water quality is impacted by low dissolved oxygen levels. That means that illicit discharges have a greater impact on the water than if the oxygen levels were higher. This creek could benefit from stormwater control measures like stream restoration to widen the floodplain and force riffle enhancement. These measures would increase the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, while regular monitoring of the stream for illicit discharges would help protect it from further degradation.

Project Manager

J.V. Loperfido

919-560-4326 ext 30311

Relevant Documents

Source Tracking Findings Presentation

Sandy Creek PST Final Report May 2022

Sandy Creek PST Final Report May 2022 - Executive Summary

Status: Completed May 2022

Project Phases:

  • Existing data review
  • First-round water quality sampling
  • Sampling data analysis
  • Second-round water quality sampling
  • Data analysis
  • Final Reporting