Katherine Peter, Research Chemist and National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Charleston SC, will present.
Evaluating Stormwater Impacts on Chemical Habitat Quality in Urban Watersheds
Abstract: Chemical habitat quality is an increasingly important conservation issue, particularly in watersheds affected by urban stormwater runoff. Regulatory efforts typically focus on a limited suite of conventional parameters and chemical pollutants, and management is often guided by conceptual models of contaminant “first flushes”, defined by disproportionate concentrations or mass loads early in the storm hydrograph. However, urban runoff transports thousands of organic contaminants that are currently unidentified, unregulated and/or have poorly understood fate and toxicity outcomes. Likewise, previous studies of contaminant transport and receiving water hydrology have primarily focused on traditional contaminants and point sources, rather than chemically complex non-point sources. In this talk, I describe two studies that examine the storm, seasonal, and spatial dynamics of broader suites of emerging stormwater-derived organic contaminants. In the first, we conducted baseflow and storm sampling in a representative small, urban watershed to examine urban creek contaminant pollutographs relative to storm hydrographs. Results indicated that low-intensity initial rainfall can drive substantial water quality degradation, and mobilization of contaminant mass across the entire hydrograph can yield lengthy exposure periods and high peak concentrations for ecologically relevant contaminants. The findings inform focused stormwater management efforts to improve water quality and promote ecosystem function in small receiving waters. In the second study, we conducted sampling during baseflow conditions and multiple storm events across a regional urbanization gradient (Puget Sound, WA). Surface water chemical composition was highly correlated with landscape-based urbanization, season, and storm events, as well as with two anchors of biological decline. We isolated and identified individual chemical indicators capable of effectively resolving urbanization-associated water quality degradation. Results validated the use of spatial landscape modeling to prioritize management efforts for aquatic ecosystem protection at watershed scales, and provide a framework for developing more holistic metrics for water quality impairment associated with biological degradation.
Bio: Dr. Katherine (Kathy) Peter is a research chemist and National Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Charleston, South Carolina. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis and earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa. After her Ph.D., Kathy worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Washington Tacoma Center for Urban Waters for three years prior to joining NIST. Kathy’s research is at the interface of water quality, analytical chemistry, and environmental engineering. She is interested in approaches to better characterize, trace, and manage urban pollution, particularly from diffuse sources. Her current research focuses on the development of methods that use non-targeted high-resolution mass spectrometry to identify, differentiate, and track sources of organic contaminants in the environment. Kathy’s work has been published in journals such as Environmental Science and Technology, Water Research, and Science, and she is a recipient of the 2021 James J. Morgan Environmental Science and Technology Early Career Award.
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