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Freshwater status in Mississippi Delta, USA.


Water is an essential and integral chemical component of all living organisms. It is present at different amounts in all ecological habitats where it provides basis for all biological activities. For most organisms, water makes up as much as 70 to 90 percent of the body weight (Mader, 2008 and Mader and Windlespecht, 2014) and impacts both the population density and the quality of existence (Brooker et al., 2014 and Mader and Windlespecht, 2014). The ubiquity and uniqueness of water not only enables it to serve as a dynamic resource for food, drinking water, recreational activities but also as a hallmark of all successful human communities. In 2008, World Health Organization reiterated the importance of preserving freshwaters for drinking water supply, food production, and recreational activities; a task that is often compounded by moderate rainfalls. Prolonged and frequent thunderstorms and rainfalls as occur in Mississippi Delta (MD), adversely impact bodies of freshwater, including many ephemeral and intermittent water resources. A variety of wastes and pollutants often find their way into bodies of freshwater (Neal et al., 2002; Campbell et at., 2011 and contaminations /ecoli.html) through surface run-offs, septic tanks over-flow and ground water run-offs. In agricultural regions, such as the MD, where the use of pesticides and fertilizers by farmers are common, the potential for freshwater pollution through surface run-offs and ground water run-offs continues to draw questions and stir up profound fears of unsafe freshwaters that compromise humans' and wildlife health.

It is not uncommon in the MD to find local residents fishing for food in flooded ephemeral and intermittent water resource sites; such as by roadways, ditches, bogs and ponds. Knowledge of freshwater parameters and coliform bacteria loads are important in determining if waters are environmentally contaminated with pollutants. The first set of parameters tested in this study (ammonium-nitrogen, chlorine, chromium, copper, iron, nitrate, phosphate, silica, and sulfide) except cyanide, all serve as normal nutrients for freshwater organisms. Water resources however, become environmentally polluted when the concentration of one or more nutrients, coliform bacterial, or total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen, pH, or salinity occur outside the safe range established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and or Mississippi Department of Environmental Control (MDEC). The ephemeral and intermittent water resources although not considered a major freshwater resource are used by birds and wildlife as sources of food and drink. Studies have shown that many animals that live in polluted waters tend to accumulate in their tissues the same pollutants that are present in such waters. Pollutant laden organisms are susceptible to parasitic infections. Ikenga and Wagner (2005) documented the presence of both parasitic and fungal diseases in many fish species from a watershed pond in Carroll Co. Mississippi. This research investigated the quality of five freshwater resources in the MD.


The objectives of the study were to first document qualitatively 10 freshwater quality parameters for five freshwater resources in the MD. Freshwater parameters are measurable chemical and physical properties that are collectively used to determine the overall quality of health of freshwaters. The second objective was to determine quantitatively another set of freshwater quality parameters (Temperature, pH, Dissolve oxygen, Total dissolved solids, and Salinity) and third was to determine if any pollution and potential health hazards exist that could impact the use of freshwater resources for recreational purposes and for sources of food, by humans, birds and wildlife.


The freshwater resources studied in this research are the Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) north-campus pond (VNP) in Itta Bena, MS; the MVSU south-campus pond (VSP) in Itta Bena, MS; Itta Bena Lake (IBL) in Itta Bena MS; the Big Sand Creek (BSC) in Greenwood, MS; and the Greenwood Blue-lake (GBL) in Greenwood, MS. The IBL, GBL, and BSC are relatively lotic freshwaters. The VSP has a centrally installed deep aerator that circulates the water while the VNP has no circulation of water beyond that afforded naturally by wind. The five freshwaters studied were chosen because of their location in the region, accessibility, and prodivity for use by local residents. The project began in July 2008 and was completed in August 2008. At VNP, VSP, IBL, GBL, and BSC water samples were taken from a safe, none flow-obstructed location, using a wader and a LaMotte[TM] Water Sampler at depths of 1.2 5 m, 1.21 m, 4.6 m, 2.9 m, and 0.91m, respectively. Depth was determined using the LaMotte[TM] Water Sampler calibrated rope attached to the sampler. At each freshwater location, five, clean, glass-bottles were carefully overfilled onsite with water sample from a LaMotte[TM] Water Sampler and then tightly capped. Each glass bottle was labeled, dated and stored in a cooler-chest for transportation to the Environmental laboratory at MVSU. Water samples were kept cold in a refrigerator and tested within three days of collection. Chemical tests for the 10 water quality parameters were conducted using the Lab-Aid[R] Qualitative Water Pollution Kit per manufacturers' guidelines. Test kits were commercially supplied by the Carolina Biological Supply Company. On site, the HI 9828 Multiparameter Meter and probes were used to measure quantitatively the second set of parameters; temperature, pH, dissolve oxygen (DO), total dissolve solids (TDS), and salinity.

Prior to onsite water testing, the HI 9828 was fitted with the appropriate probes and calibrated with a Quick Calibration solution. Testing for coliform bacteria was conducted using the LaMotte[TM] Coliform Bacteria Test Kit per manufacture's guidelines. The coliform bacterial test kit was commercially packaged and supplied by the Carolina Biological Supply Company. All data generated were tabulated and compared to the MDEC standards, to determine any anomaly that may suggest water pollution and possible health risks to humans, birds, and wildlife.


This research qualitatively found phosphorous, silica, and sulfide in the water samples from all five locations tested (Table 1). Iron was detected in water samples from the VNP, GBL, and BSC. Chlorine was detected in water samples from the GBL and ammonium nitrogen from the BSC. A trace of nitrate was found in BSC, but no chromium, copper, or cyanide was detected in any other water resources studied. Table 2 shows the quantified data for dissolved oxygen (DO), total dissolved solids (TDS), temperature, salinity and pH. The DO measured ranged from 0.04 ppm in water samples from GBL to 7.02 ppm in water samples from VNP (Table 2). Both IBL and VSP recorded respectively, 0.53 ppm and 4.94 ppm for DO. Total dissolved solids found ranged from 24 ppm in water samples from VNP to 121 ppm in water samples from VSP (Table 2). Salinity measurements were 0.02 ppm, 0.04 ppm, 0.05 ppm, 0.05 ppm, and 0.11 ppm in water samples from VNP, BSC, GBL, IBL, and VSP, respectively. The total dissolved solids or salinity found does not suggest any pollution. The pH measured ranged from 6.56 to 8.76.

The BSC (Figure 1) appeared the clearest of all the five freshwaters. Several minnows were observed at this location. At the time of this study, the BSC had not received much heavy rain falls and was not at its full capacity. The GBL appeared bluish but contained much decaying organic matter, algae, and aquatic weeds (Figure 2). No minnows were seen in GBL, but small fish were seen flipping out and diving back into the water. IBL (Figure 3) is a slow flowing lake and had a light green appearance with abundance of water hyacinth, especially at shorelines. The VNP had a little mud-brown coloration but with no observable algal growth (Figure 4). The surface of VSP was almost completely covered with algal growths (Figure 5). Coliform bacteria were found in water samples from all the five water resources tested.


Many bodies of water are negatively impacted by frequent thunderstorms and prolonged rainfalls through surface run-offs, including septic tanks over-flow and ground water run-offs. Both types of run-off usually enable dumping of a variety of wastes and pollutants into bodies of water (Neal et al., 2002; Campbell et at., 2011 and safewater/contaminations/ecoli.html). In agricultural regions, such as the Mississippi Delta, where the use of pesticides and fertilizers by farmers are common, water run-off into public bodies of water often elicit a profound sense of threat to human health, and collaterally to birds' and wildlife health. As in any environmental studies, sampling locations are important.

During this study, efforts were made to collect water samples from each water resource from a reasonably suitable and safe location. It is suggested that equidistant water sampling sites across each water resource be undertaken to determine any possible differences. The IBL, GBL, and BSC are lotic freshwaters within the Yazoo River Basin. Water flow and mixing are enabled by wind and a centrally located deep aerator at the VSP and by wind only at the VNP. The deep aerator at VSP may be simulating some kind of eutrophication by upwelling bottom nutrients to the surface and hence, help maintain the algal bloom seen in Figure 5. Such abundance of algal growth is suggestive of water pollution. Data reported in Tables 1 and 2 of this study may be sensitive to season, and hence higher numbers may be recordable immediately following thunderstorms. It is therefore recommended that a regular seasonal water-sampling be implemented to confirm and elucidate the magnitude of seasonal changes.

Phosphorous, silica, and sulfide were found in water samples from all the five locations tested (Table 1). Both phosphorous and sulfides are essential plant macronutrients. These nutrients contribute to freshwater pollution at high concentrations. Aquatic vertebrates such as fish are common freshwater animals that require phosphorous and sulfides for building and replenishing of cellular proteins and nucleic acids (Mader and Windlespecht, 2013). Silica that was found in all the five locations tested may be responsible for some mineralization of the waters. Iron, an important mineral for binding and transport of oxygen in vertebrates and a plant micronutrient, was found in water samples from the VNP, GBL, and BSC. The concentration of iron in the above sites is not yet known, as only qualitative studies were done at this time. Nitrate that was found in trace amounts in the water samples from BSC and ammonium-nitrogen from IBL are essential plant macronutrients required for syntheses of proteins, nucleic acids, chlorophyll, coenzymes, and alkaloids (Brooker et al., 2014 and Mader and Windlespcht, 2013).

Some of the algae observed in the VSP and the GBL could be cayanobacterial, which may present with microcystin, a known hepatotoxin (Anderson, 2007; Dash et al., 2013; Falconer and Humpage, 2005; and Metcalf and Codd, 2004). The presence of ammonium nitrogen in IBL is perhaps why aquatic weeds, especially water hyacinth, were abundant in the IBL. Chlorine, a micronutrient of both plants and animals that was detected in GBL is used by plants in their photosystem cells and in the ion balance for photolytic activities, while animals need chlorine for acid-base and osmotic balances, as well as conduction of impulses (Brooker et al., 2014 and Mader and Windlespcht 2013). The presence of chlorine in these freshwaters is documented by this study but the concentration is unknown. However, the potential health risks from copper, chromium, and cyanide is at abeyance, since none was detected in the study. A quantitative analyses of all nutrients found would be needed to help determine presence or absence of pollution. A regular and seasonal water sampling is therefore recommended to help document any seasonal pollutants.

Both the IBL and the GBL were extremely anoxic and out of compliance of the minimum MDEC Standards. Such low DO levels in water indicate a high biological oxygen demand (BOD); suggesting some form of organic pollution (Okorie and Acholonu, 2008 and Okorie et al., 2013). Low DO levels negatively impact both variety and number of aerobic, aquatic organisms and possibly accounts for why no minnows were observed in the two water resources. It is possible that the fishes that periodically lipped out of the GBL and then dove back in were coming up for air. Most freshwater fishes breathe water. But a metabolic need for more oxygen in the environment that has less than optimum may be a driving force for the fishes observed leaping out of the water to adapt to aerial breathing.

The VNP recorded the highest DO concentration, suggesting the presence of a low BOD, hence a TDS of 24 ppm. Neither the total dissolved solids (TDS) found in this study (24 ppm to 121 ppm) nor the salinity (0.02 ppm to 0.11 ppm) represent any pollution concerns. The pH measured at the VNP, IBL, GBL, and BSC was not in disparity with the MDEC Standard. The VSP at 31.42[degrees] C was the only water resource tested that exceed the MDEC standard of 30[degrees]C. The high temperature may limit zooplankton and may also be one of the extrinsic factors promoting the dense algal bloom seen in the VSP (Figure 1).

This study documents the presences of coliform bacteria in all the test waters; a notably troublesome finding. Coliforms are microorganisms that represent a group of enteric bacteria. The latter along with other disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoans are associated with the fecal matter of warm-blooded animals, including humans. The coliforms in general, serve as indicators of possible sewage or fecal contamination with water resources (APHA, 1992). The detection of coliforms in this study suggests that a potential health risk exists for humans, birds or wildlife that use these water resources. A more sensitive but expensive bacterial assay is recommended to elucidate specific coliform species and load. IBL and GBL, in particular, are used often by local residents for fishing and or recreational purposes. Local youngsters sometimes swim in the IBL, raising concerns about recreational water illness. The latter are caused by microorganisms spread by coming in contact with, or breathing in mists, aerosols of, or swallowing in contaminated waters (http ://www. cdc. gov/healthywater /swimming/rwi).


This study documents both the freshwater parameters and the status of coliform bacteria for all the five MD freshwaters studied. Freshwater parameters are measurable chemical and physical properties that are collectively used to determine the overall quality of health of water resources. It is important to note that freshwaters can be considered polluted by the presence of one or more of the parameters tested in this study, if the concentrations exceed safe EPA and or MDEC standards. The finding of phosphorous, chlorine, sulfide, nitrate, iron, and ammonium-nitrogen in the test waters does not suggest presence or absence of pollution at this point. This qualitative study merely documents the kinds of nutrients present in the freshwaters. A follow-up quantitative analysis of each nutrient must be conducted to determine presence or absence of pollution by nutrients. Temperature, pH, DO, TDS, and salinity identify unhealthy waters quickly and help suggest possible state of pollution. Plant and animal tissues accumulate pollutants that are present in their environments. A regular seasonal study is therefore recommended for the five freshwaters to avert potential biological magnification. The latter occurs when plants and animals live and reproduce in polluted environments. The finding of coliform bacteria in all the test waters is notably troublesome. A more specific test for E. coli ( and www.epa. gov/owow/monitoring/volunteer/stream/vms51 1.html) is recommended on a regular seasonal basis. Such a test would help determine if the E. coli is the strain that is highly pathogenic to humans, birds and wildlife.


This research was funded by the USDA Title 111, Faculty Development Program, Mississippi Valley State University, Itta Bena, MS, USA.


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Julius O. Ikenga

Mississippi Valley State University, Department of Natural Sciences & Environmental Health, 14000 Highway 82 West, Itta Bena, MS 38941.

Corresponding author: Dr. Julius Ikenga

Table 1. Qualitative Water Parameters from Five Locations in the
Mississippi Delta.

Water Quality           Valley       Valley       Itta Bena   Greenwood
Parameters              South Pond   North Pond   Lake        Blue Lake

(N[H.sub.4]) Nitrogen       -            -            +           -
Chlorine                    -            -            -           +
Chromium                    -            -            -           -
Copper                      -            -            -           -
Cyanide                     -            -            -           -
Iron                        -            +            -           +
Nitrate                     -            -            -           -
Phosphorous                 +            +            +         Trace
Silica                      +            +            +           +
Sulfide                     +            +            +           +
Coliform Test               +            +            +           +

Water Quality           Big Sand
Parameters              Creek

(N[H.sub.4]) Nitrogen      -
Chlorine                   -
Chromium                   -
Copper                     -
Cyanide                    -
Iron                       +
Nitrate                  Trace
Phosphorous              Trace
Silica                     +
Sulfide                    +
Coliform Test              +

Table 2. Quantified Water Quality Parameters from Five Locations in
the Mississippi Delta. (~, comparative data not available.)

Water Quality              VSP     VNP     IBL     GBL     BSC

Dissolved Oxygen (ppm)     4.94    7.02    0.53    0.04    4.64

pH                         8.76    8.20    6.60    6.56    7.64
Temperature ([degrees]C)   31.42   28.62   29.97   23.9    26.62
Total Dissolved             121     24      54      54      43
Solid (ppm)
Salinity                   0.11    0.02    0.05    0.05    0.04

Water Quality              MDEC Std.

Dissolved Oxygen (ppm)       [greater than
                             or equal to] 4.0
pH                                9.0
Temperature ([degrees]C)      30[degrees]C
Total Dissolved                   <400
Solid (ppm)
Salinity                           --
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Author:Ikenga, Julius O.
Publication:Journal of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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