An evaluation of the Cypress Creek watershed for inorganic chemical load as it flows into Lake Houston

Maximea E Vigilant, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. The Cypress Creek is one of the main tributaries of Lake Houston, which provides drinking water to 21.4 million customers. Furthermore, the watershed is being utilized for contact and non-contact recreation, such as canoeing, swimming, hiking trail, and picnics. Water along the creek is impacted by numerous wastewater outfalls from both point and non-point sources. As the creek flows into Lake Houston, it carries both organic and inorganic contaminants that may affect the drinking water quality of this important water source reservoir. Objective. This study was carried out to evaluate the inorganic chemical load of the water in Cypress Creek along its entire length, from the headwaters in Waller County and up to the drainage into Lake Houston. The purpose was to determine whether there are hazardous concentrations of metals in the water and what would be the likely sources. Method. Samples were collected at 29 sites along the creek and analyzed for 29 metals, 17 of which were on the Environmental Protection Agency priority pollution list. Public access sites primarily at bridges were used for sample collection. Samples were transported on ice to the University Of Texas School Of Public Health laboratory, spiked with 2 ml HNO3 kept overnight in the refrigerator, and the following day transported to the EPA laboratory for analysis. Analysis was done by EPA Method 200.7-ICP, Method 200.8ICP/MS and Method 245.1-CVAAS. Results. Metals were present above the detection limits at 65% of sites. Concentrations of aluminum, iron, sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, were particularly high at all sites. Aluminum, sodium, and iron concentrations greatly exceeded the EPA secondary drinking water standards at all sites. Conclusion. The recreational water along Cypress Creek is impacted by wastewater from both permitted and non-permitted outfalls, which deposit inorganic substances into the water. Although a number of inorganic contaminants were present in the water, toxic metals regulated by the EPA were mostly below the recommended limits. However, high concentrations of aluminum, sodium, and iron in the Cypress Creek bring forward the issue of unauthorized discharges of salt water from mining, as well as industrial and domestic wastewater.

Subject Area

Environmental Health|Public health|Geochemistry

Recommended Citation

Vigilant, Maximea E, "An evaluation of the Cypress Creek watershed for inorganic chemical load as it flows into Lake Houston" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1470189.