District Digest News Stories

Team explains how it surveys Lake Cumberland’s water quality

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published June 3, 2022
Sarah Pedrick, biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, collects water samples at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Sarah Pedrick, biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, collects water samples at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Sarah Pedrick, biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, releases water from a Kemmerer water sampler while checking water quality at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Sarah Pedrick, biologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, releases water from a Kemmerer water sampler while checking water quality at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Mark Campbell, hydrologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, and Sarah Pedrick, biologist, collect water temperatures at different depths at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Mark Campbell, hydrologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, and Sarah Pedrick, biologist, collect water temperatures at different depths at Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Mark Campbell, hydrologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, prepares plastic bottles for sampling during a water quality survey mission on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

Mark Campbell, hydrologist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Management Section, prepares plastic bottles for sampling during a water quality survey mission on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Quality Survey vessel and team travels on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022, to collect water samples. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District’s Water Quality Survey vessel and team travels on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky May 25, 2022, to collect water samples. (USACE Photo by Lee Roberts)

LAKE CUMBERLAND, Ky. (June 3, 2022) – A water quality team onboard a survey boat collected water samples last week from Wolf Creek Dam’s tailwater along with 12 more stations in the reservoir and major tributaries of Lake Cumberland.

The water quality team with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District Water Management Section explained how it surveys water quality and visits the lake monthly to monitor water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH.

Three full samplings are also collected every year to capture the growing season during the spring, summer, and fall to analyze for nutrients, metals, algae, and chlorophyll. Benthic macroinvertebrate sampling is conducted every three years, while sediment contaminant sampling is conducted every five years.

Mark Campbell, Water Management Section hydrologist, said the team conducted a full sampling for the spring on this trip. The results obtained from surveys taken May 24-26 make it possible for the Corps of Engineers to determine physical, chemical, and biological metrics to better assess water quality conditions, he explained.

“It’s a general assessment of water quality conditions,” Campbell said. “All of the information that we collect and the results that we get back from the labs are sent to the Kentucky Division of Water to assess surface water conditions and for identification of impaired waters. They document and report those results to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and report to Congress.”

When the team arrives at a station, its members make general observations of the weather and appearance of the water including the presence of debris. A multi-parameter sonde is then used to collect the water quality profile.

During visits to Lake Cumberland the water quality team samples multiple locations such as Burkesville below Wolf Creek Dam, Jamestown, Monticello, Fishing Creek, Pitman Creek, Buck Creek, Somerset, Little and Big South Forks, Cumberland Falls, and Rockcastle River.

Sarah Pedrick, Water Management Section biologist, said she checks water clarity with a Secchi disk and collects water quality data at five-feet intervals from the surface to the deepest point in the channel/reservoir at each lake station. After evaluating the data, the team determines from which depths to pull samples.  

“The water samples will be used for chemical analysis,” Pedrick explained. “We’re looking for the peak chlorophyll concentration because it shows where the most biological activity is occurring. We also take samples at the surface and near bottom to capture changes throughout the profile.” 

Pedrick added that the main thing people who recreate at Lake Cumberland need to know is that the water quality team routinely monitors the water quality both in the reservoir and downstream of the reservoir. They work to verify that the water in the lake is healthy for visitors, she said.

Water chemistry and samples are analyzed by the Corps of Engineers and several contractors. The water quality observations and results are reviewed by water managers who operate the system of dams in the Cumberland River Basin.

“We are out here frequently,” Campbell stressed. “If there is anything that looks suspicious to us on the surface of the water or in the things that we find, we report that immediately to the Kentucky Division of Water for any type of action. Overall, the water quality here is good.”

(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Lake Cumberland on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lakecumbeland.)