Limestone Creek


Stream Survey Records for Limestone Creek – 1996-2015

Project Watershed CNY

Origin of the Project Watershed Program

            The Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) began a volunteer stream monitoring program in the late 1960’s titled ‘Save Our Streams.’  A local Izaak Walton chapter, the Central New York Chapter, was established in Syracuse in 1989 and undertook two major projects over the next several years.

            The first project was undertaking a volunteer stream monitoring program in Onondaga County in partnership with several high school science teachers who volunteered to monitor nearby streams with assistance from CNY Chapter members who were familiar with the Save Our Stream methods for assessing water quality based on identification of stream insects and macroinvertebrates.

            The second project was restoration of Beartrap Creek, a polluted tributary of Ley Creek in the Town of Salina, which had been contaminated with glycol aircraft deicer discharges from the Hancock Airport.  The glycol pollution had the effect of sucking oxygen from the Creek waters, resulting in conditions adverse to supporting fish and aquatic communities.

            After succeeding in recruiting a number of interested science teachers from area high schools, the CNY Chapter partnered with representatives from SUNY-ESF, Syracuse University, Onondaga County SWCD, and the science teachers to develop a regional volunteer stream monitoring program titled “Project Watershed Central New York.”

            We also added a chemical monitoring element to the Project Watershed program based on a manual developed by Mark Mitchell and William Stapp at the University of Michigan titled: Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring, An Environmental Education Program for Schools.  With grant funding obtained from Niagara Mohawk and Cooper Industries, we were able to purchase three portable water quality laboratory units manufactured by the Hach Company.

            In May, 2000, with funding assistance from the Onondaga County Health Department, graduate student Diana A. Saccone published her Master’s thesis titled “Professional Experience with Onondaga County Health Department, Council on Environmental Health: Project Watershed Central New York/Save Our Streams” at SUNY-ESF.

            Saccone’s Master’s thesis described the overall purpose and history of the Project Watershed program, the principal water quality parameters being monitored, and provided an overview of the Quality Assurance/Quality Control Plans developed for the program.


Long Term Monitoring of Limestone Creek

            Project Watershed volunteers have monitored water quality conditions in Limestone Creek at a number of locations from the upper Creek basin by Route 20 all the way down to Kirkville and Shepps Corners Roads in the Town of Manlius over the past two decades between 1996 to 2015. We have been able to maintain records of our stream monitoring results thanks to a database developed with assistance from Syracuse University and our own CNY Chapter database manager, Donald Gates.  Don Gates developed the Filemaker Pro database we are currently using, available on the web at

            Project managers and coordinators for the Project Watershed program since 1994 have included William ‘Bill’ Legg, former science program director at Liverpool High School, Mat Webber, our current CNY Chapter president, and Les Monostory, retired environmental planner with the Onondaga County Health Department and the County’s Environmental Management Council.

            Our stream survey sites along Limestone Creek include the following:

a) US Route 20 bridge crossing in the Town of Pompey, data on chloride levels collected in 2015 and 2020.

b) Mill Run Park Site, off Mill Street in the Village of Manlius. Data collected between 1997-2008.

c) Pleasant Street Site  in the Village of Manlius, behind the Stickley Furniture factory. Data collected between 2005-2013.

d) Route 5 bridge in the Village of Fayetteville.  Data collected between 1998-2010.

e) Kirkville Road bridge crossing, north of the Village of Minoa.  Data collected between 1996-2010.


Biological (S.O.S.) and Chemical Water Quality Ratings

            The biological monitoring data forms developed for the IWLA Save Our Streams program [see chart 1] categorize aquatic insects and crustaceans into three general categories according to each organism’s sensitivity to pollution.

The SENSITIVE category includes insects like mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies.

The LESS SENSITIVE category includes crayfish, scuds, dragonflies and damselflies.

The TOLERANT category includes midge flies, black flies and leeches.

            Water quality ratings for the biological data forms are based on the number of organisms identified in the Sensitive, Less Sensitive and Tolerant categories multiplied by 3, 2 and 1 to develop a stream index value.  The S.O.S. water quality ratings based on a total index value result in grades of Excellent (>22), Good (17-22), Fair (11-16), and Poor (<11).  The key criterion for classifying and separating these macroinvertebrates is their sensitivity or need for higher or lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the supporting stream section.

            Our Chemical Water Quality Ratings for the Project Watershed program are based on criteria found in Mitchell & Stapp’s Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring.  The chemical and physical elements measured in the stream under this Field Manual include Dissolved Oxygen, Fecal Coliforms, pH, Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Reactive Phosphate, Nitrate Nitrogen, Chlorides, Turbidity, and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS).

             The nine chemical-physical elements are graded into ‘Q-Values’ or index values that are added together to develop an Overall Water Quality Index (WQI) based on a scale of 0-100.  Dissolved oxygen levels in the surveyed stream section are given the highest rating under this Water Quality Index, with TDS weighed as the lowest.  Results yield ratings of Excellent (90-100), Good (70-90), Fair (50-70), and Poor (25-50).  [refer to Chart 2.]


Biological and Chemical Ratings for Limestone Creek’s Stream Survey Sites

            Biological ratings are classed as Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor, based on the Save Our Streams biological monitoring data forms.  For each of the survey sites, we will indicate the number of surveys conducted, and whether or not the biological or chemical surveys were completed on each date of the surveys.

            Some of the surveys may have been incomplete (not surveyed) or partially complete for either the biological or chemical elements.



a) US Route 20 bridge crossing, Town of Pompey

Chemical Ratings, 2 surveys conducted for chloride and TDS levels only in 2015 and 2020.


2015:             Chlorides = 26 mg/l; Total Dissolved Solids = 220 mg/l

2020:             Chlorides = 42 mg/l; Total Dissolved Solids = 255 mg/l



b) Mill Run Park Site, Village of Manlius

Biological Ratings – 5 surveys, 5 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1997-2008   Water Quality Rating                    Organisms    Organisms

                                    Fair (11-16) 2                                  2

                                    Poor (<11)   3                                  3


Chemical Ratings    1997-2008   Fair to Good WQI ratings throughout 

1999-2008   Chlorides = 24-73 mg/l                             pH Range

                                    Ave. = 46 mg/l                                6-7//7-8//8-9

                                                                                                  1        3          1

Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        2008                 4.1 NTU      292 mg/l

                                                                        2006                  21 NTU      230 mg/l

                                                                        1999                    7 NTU      200 mg/l

                                                                        1997                 4.3 NTU      220 mg/l


c) Pleasant Street Site , Village of Manlius

Biological Ratings   20 surveys, 14 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

2005-2013   Water Quality Rating                    Organisms    Organisms

                                    Good (17-22)  6                              6

                                    Fair (11-16)    9                               9

                                    Poor (<11)      1                               1


Chemical Ratings   2005-2013    Fair to Good WQI ratings throughout


2005-2013   Chlorides = 24-110 mg/l              pH Range

                                    Ave. = 59 mg/l                    6-7//7-8//8-9

                                                                                      1        8      10

Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        2013                16.5 NTU    329 mg/l

                                                                        2010                11.5 NTU    259 mg/l

                                                                        2008                 1.4  NTU     410 mg/l

                                                                        2006                 2.8  NTU     328 mg/l



d) Route 5 bridge in Fayetteville

Biological Ratings   20 surveys, 18 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1998-2010   Water Quality Rating                    Organisms    Organisms

                                    Good (17-22)   2                             2

                                    Fair (11-16)    14                         14

                                    Poor (<11)        4                             4


Chemical Ratings    1998-2010   Fair to Good WQI ratings throughout


1999-2004   Chlorides = 14-60 mg/l                             pH Range

                                    Ave. = 36.4 mg/l                             6-7//7-8//8-9

2006-2010   Chlorides = 31-94 mg/l                               4        9       6

                                    Ave. = 58.3 mg/l


Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        2010                 22  NTU      370 mg/l

                                                                        2006                 3.1 NTU      370 mg/l

                                                                        2002                   4  NTU      310 mg/l

                                                                        1998                 6.1 NTU      260 mg/l


e) Kirkville Road bridge crossing, Town of Manlius

Biological Ratings   20 surveys, 19 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1996-2010   Water Quality Rating                    Organisms    Organisms

                                    Good (17-22)   1                              1

                                    Fair (11-16)      7                              7

                                    Poor (<11)      11                            11


Chemical Ratings    1999-2010   Fair to Good WQI ratings throughout


1999-2004   Chlorides = 35-106 mg/l                          pH Range

                                    Ave. = 53 mg/l                                6-7//7-8//8-9

2006-2010   Chlorides = 34-122 mg/l                            3        7       7

                                    Ave. = 76 mg/l



Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        2009                 5.6 NTU      320 mg/l

                                                                        2006                 4.2 NTU      430 mg/l

                                                                        2000                 3.6 NTU      360 mg/l

                                                                        1996                   5   NTU     190 mg/l


Overall Analisys of Biolgical and Chemical Parameters in Limestone Creek  by Les Monostory

          In terms of the biological water quality ratings for Limestone Creek, what are not shown above is the presence of all three ratings on the biological monitoring data forms that include Sensitive, Less Sensitive, and Tolerant categories of macroinvertebrates.  The focus was to highlight the presence of Sensitive organisms, or lacking any of those, to indicate presence of Less Sensitive organisms. 

          The reason for focusing on presence of Sensitive organisms, such as mayflies, stoneflies, or riffle beetles, is that the presence of such Sensitive organisms indicates that dissolved oxygen levels remain high enough year-round at any given survey site along Limestone Creek to support those macroinvertebrates.  If those Sensitive organisms are found to be present at any given survey site, you can be almost certain that additional organisms in the Less Sensitive and Tolerant categories will also be present at that same site

          The interesting point to make about our survey sites along Limestone Creek is that at least one or more Sensitive organisms were found to be present at each of the sites, even when the sites were rated as having ‘Poor’ water quality.  This may have been related to seasonal changes when aquatic insect populations are difficult to identify due to generation of new hatches of smaller insects.

          With regard to the chemical parameters presented above, almost all of the survey sites were found to score within the Fair to Good overall Water Quality Index (WQI) range, from Mill Run Park in the Village of Manlius to the Kirkville Road site located a short distance north of Minoa Village.

          Our surveys placed special emphasis on the chloride ion levels (associated with salt or sodium chlorides) measured at various locations along Limestone Creek, as the build-up of salt in ground waters across the northern states is becoming a significant problem for both aquatic organisms and human health. Due to the extensive salting of highways during winter months, the chloride levels in streams, rivers and lakes has been increasing throughout New York and most other northern states, as the chlorides accumulate in ground waters year after year.

          The long term build-up of chloride levels in streams is less visible in rural areas, but our stream records indicate increasing levels of chlorides at our various survey locations as we move downstream from rural US Route 20 through the Villages of Manlius and Fayetteville.  In a separate survey conducted by Les Monostory in 2015, the chloride levels increased from a low of 26-28 mg/l above the Village of Manlius to 45 mg/l at the Mill Run Park site, then increased further to 78 mg/l in Fayetteville behind the Manlius Town Hall. In a follow-up survey conducted in November, 2020, the chloride levels at Route 20 and Enders Road above Manlius Village measured 42 and 51 mg/l, then increased to 83 mg/l at Mill Run Park, and to 103 mg/l in Fayetteville behind the Manlius Town Hall.

          Additional chloride reading at the Route 5 bridge site in Fayetteville and the Kirkville Road bridge site north of Minoa may not be statistically significant, but they show increasing average concentration of chlorides for a five year period between 1999-2004, and 2006-2020.  The average chloride reading at the Route 5 bridge site was 36.4 mg/l between 1999-2004, then increased to an average reading of 58.3 mg/l between 2006-2010.  Comparable chloride readings at the Kirkville Road bridge site was an average of 53 mg/l between 1999-2004, then rose to an average of 76 mg/l between 2006-2010.

          The presence of higher chloride levels in fresh waters above 250 mg/l has been declared a hazard to the survival of Sensitive aquatic insects by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.  This doesn’t mean that those sensitive insects like mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies won’t be present when chloride levels exceed 250 mg/l, but their overall populations are likely to be lowered.  These aquatic insects are important sources of food for populations of trout.

          Among the ‘other’ chemical parameters listed above, pH levels can vary from one survey to another depending on amount of rainfall and inputs from adjacent surface and underground sources.  In Limestone Creek, the pH levels typically are found in the mid to upper ranges of 7-9, indicating more basic than acidic conditions.

          Turbidity levels in Limestone Creek are influenced by both rainfall events and discharges from the East and West Braches of Limestone Creek, as well as additional smaller tributaries entering Limestone Creek below the main stem discharge from DeRuyter Reservoir. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) levels are also influenced by mostly the same factors, and can vary substantially from site to site and year to year.

          Additional records on water quality conditions in Limestone Creek have been collected over the years by consulting engineer firms for Onondaga County’s Water Environmental Protection Department, and various reports from NYSDEC and other research groups or agencies.  Our Project Watershed volunteer stream monitoring records have been shared with the Environmental Health Division of the Onondaga County Health Department, which has allocated funds toward the cost of chemicals and some of the equipment used for our chemical monitoring.


Limestone Creek Surveys conducted by members of Trout Unlimited’s Iroquois Chapter

          The Project Watershed surveys of Limestone Creek were ended in 2013, and since 2014 the Limestone surveys have been conducted by members of the local Iroquois Chapter of Trout Unlimited.  The Trout Unlimited surveys have utilized an alternative set of chemical water quality parameters developed by the Community Science Institute (C.S.I.) organization headquartered in Ithaca, N.Y.

          Chemical elements measured under the C.S.I. parameters include dissolved oxygen, pH, hardness, conductivity, and water temperature.  Some of the volunteer monitoring groups under the C.S.I. program also conduct biological surveys for macroinvertebrates, but so far that has not been included under the Trout Unlimited surveys.  The survey data collected since 2014 by the local Trout Unlimited members can be accessed on the Community Science Institute website at


National Izaak Walton League’s ‘Clean Water’ Program

          Over the past several years, the national Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) has added to the “Save Our Streams” program with a ‘Clean Water’ site on the IWLA website [ for monitors] that includes information on stream monitoring, water quality in America, webinars for experts, and resources for monitors.

          These resources include a new ‘Clean Water Hub’ database of stream water quality records collected by volunteer monitoring groups across the nation, including our Project Watershed CNY program. The ‘Clean Water Hub’ also includes a linkable map showing the locations of some 4,800 stations across the United States where 73 organizations (to date) have entered their volunteer stream data.




Report compiled by Les Monostory,

Project Watershed Program Coordinator,

October 16, 2020, rev. Nov. 2











See below for Chart 1 – S.O.S  Biological Monitoring Data Form, and

Chart 2 – Project Watershed’s Chemical Monitoring Data Form

















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