Nine Mile Creek


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Long Term Monitoring of Ninemile Creek

            Project Watershed volunteers have monitored water quality conditions in Ninemile Creek at a number of locations from Marcellus High School by the Village of Marcellus to Camillus and Amboy, and continuing down all the way to Lakeland near State Fair Boulevard.  At the Martisco Station site near the railroad overpass, our stream records date back nearly three decades to 1991. 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 Ninemile Creek include the following:


a) Marcellus High School Site, adjacent to Rte. 174 just north of the school. Data collected between 1996 - 2008.

b) Marcellus Falls Site, Town of Marcellus, adjacent to Rte. 174.  Data collected between 1996 - 2015,

c) Martisco Station., Town of Marcellus, just north of the railroad overpass adjacent to Rte. 174. Data collected between 1991 - 2001.

d) Munro Park Site, in the Village of Camillus, north of Rte. 5.  Data collected between 1990 - 2020.

e)Camillus Clubhouse Site, Town of Camillus, off Milton Avenue, south of the Camillus Bypass.. Data collected between 1996 - 2012.

f) Amboy Hamlet Site, Town of Camillus  adjacent to Rte. 173 bridge overpass. Data collected between 1999 - 2016.

g) Lakeland Off-Ramp, from Rte. 690, Town of Geddes, near State Fair Boulevard. Data collected between 1999-2010.



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 Ninemile 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) Marcellus High School Site, Town of Marcellus

Biological Ratings – 19 surveys – 18 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1996- 1998     Water Quality Rating                  Organisms    Organisms

                                    Good (17-22)        6                        6

                                    Fair (11-16)           3                        3

1999-2008                Good (17-22)        6                         6

                                    Fair (11-16)           4                        4


Chemical Ratings    1996-2008   Fair to Good WQI ratings throughout


1996-1998:  No Chloride readings                                  pH Range                           

1999-2008:  Chlorides = 28-64 mg/l                             6-7//7-8//8-9

                                    Ave. = 49 mg/l                                   8        3       7

Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        1999                  3.9 NTU      230 mg/l

                                                                        2002                   2 NTU        300 mg/l

                                                                        2004                  3.3 NTU      210 mg/l

                                                                        2008                  4.6 NTU      257 mg/l


b) Marcellus Falls Site, Town of Marcellus

Biological Ratings   8 surveys, 7 complete                                                                                                                                                                  Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1996-2015     Water Quality Rating                   Organisms    Organisms

                        Good (17-22)        5                                    5

                        Fair (11-16)           2                                    2

                        Poor (<11)             1                                    1

Chemical Ratings    1996-2015   Fair to Good WQI ratings

                                                                                                            pH Range

1996: No Chloride readings                                                     6-7// 7-8//8-9

1999-2015: Chlorides = 43-176 mg/l                                        1      4       2

                                    Ave. = 86 mg/l

Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        1996                 9.2 NTU       180 mg/l

                                                                        2000                  3.2 NTU      300mg/l

                                                                        2005                  2  NTU        410 mg/l

                                                                        2015                 22 NTU        348 mg/l

c) Martisco Station Site, Town of Marcellus

Biological Ratings   14 surveys, 12 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1991-2001     Water Quality Rating                   Organisms    Organisms

                        Excellent (>22)     1                                    1

                        Good (17-22)        6                                     6

                        Fair (11-16)           4                                     4

                        Poor (<11)             1                                    1


Chemical Ratings    1991-2001       Fair to Good WQI ratings


1991-1998: No Chloride readings

1999-2001: Chlorides = 43-81mg/l                                  pH Range                                                                       Ave. = 56 mg/l                                       6-7//7-8

                                                                                                     11     3

Other chemical parameters by selected years:         Turbidity       TDS

                                                                        1994                    3 NTU         --

                                                                        1996                  2.4 NTU      210 mg/l

                                                                        1998                  2.9 NTU      310 mg/l

                                                                        2001                   1.8 NTU     420 mg/l


d) Munro Park, Village of Camillus

Biological Ratings   16 surveys, 13 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive       Less Sensitive

1990-2020     Water Quality Rating                  Organisms    Organisms

                  Excellent (>22)     1                                1

                        Good (17-22)         8                                8

                        Fair (11-16)             3                               3


Chemical Ratings    1990-2020   Fair to Good WQI

                                                                                                pH Range

1990-2020:  Chlorides =  47-361 mg/l;                 7-8//8-9

                                                   Ave. = 162 mg/l                          10      5

Other chemical parameters by selected years:   Turbidity     TDS

                                                                        1990                21 NTU      398 mg/l

                                                                        2013                21 NTU      398 mg/l

                                                                        2016                19 NTU      570 mg/l

                                                                        2020               12 NTU      604 mg/l

e)Camillus Clubhouse, Town of Camillus

Biological Ratings           3 surveys, 2 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive     Less Sensitive

1996-2012    Water Quality Rating              Organisms  Organisms

                        Good (17-22)           1                              1

                        Poor (<11)                1                                                      1


Chemical Ratings   2010-2012    Fair WQI ratings

                                                                                                pH Range

2010-2012: Chlorides = 62-162 mg/l                     6-7//7-8

                                    Ave. = 112 mg/l                              1        1                                             Other chemical parameters by selected years:      Turbidity     TDS

                                                                        2010                3.2 NTU    477 mg/l

                                                                        2012                5.7 NTU     598 mg/l


f) Amboy Hamlet Site, by Rte. 173 bridge, Town of Camillus

Biological Ratings           29 surveys, 21 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive     Less Sensitive

1999-2016 Water Quality Rating                 Organisms  Organisms

                        Excellent (>22)    4                                 4

                        Good (17-22)       13                              13

                        Fair (11-16)           9                                 9

                        Poor (<11)             1                                                          1

Chemical Ratings    1999-2016  Fair to Good WQI ratings

                                                                                                pH Range

1999-2016: Chlorides = 61-240 mg/l                     6-7//7-8//8-9

                                    Ave. = 93 mg/l                               3      18       6

Other chemical parameters by selected years:   Turbidity     TDS

                                                                        1999                   5 NTU     510 mg/l

                                                                        2004               6.8 NTU    472 mg/l

                                                                        2009               7.4 NTU    523 mg/l

                                                                        2016                 24 NTU    614 mg/l


g) Lakeland Off-Ramp from Rte. 690, Town of Geddes

Biological Ratings           14 surveys, 11 complete

                                                                                    Sensitive     Less Sensitive

1999-2004 Water Quality Rating               Organisms  Organisms

                                    Poor (<11)   8                                                         8 

2005-2010             Fair (11-16) 3                                 3

                                    Poor (<11)   3                                 2                     1

Chemical Ratings   1999-2010   mostly Fair WQI ratings

                                                                                                pH Range

1999-2004:  Chlorides = 266-975 mg/l                7-8//8-9

                                    Ave. =   598 mg/l                          10      4

2005-2010:  Chlorides = 332-729 mg/l

                                    Ave. =   543 mg/l

Other chemical parameters by selected years:   Turbidity     TDS

                                                                        1999              6.4 NTU     920 mg/l

                                                                        2003                 3  NTU     1385 mg/l

                                                                        2007                 5  NTU     1250 mg/l

                                                                        2010                  4  NTU     1180 mg/l


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

             Ninemile Creek, also known as Nine Mile Creek, is a stream in Central New York whose named length is considerably shorter than its actual distance from source to its discharge point. Its source is at Otisco Lake in the Town of Marcellus, from where the creek runs northward for nearly 22 miles through the villages of Marcellus and Camillus to Onondaga Lake in the Town of Geddes.  Ninemile Creek is a scenic stream noted for trout fishing.

            In terms of the biological water quality ratings for Ninemile Creek, what are not shown in the site surveys 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 Ninemile 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 main point to make about our survey sites along Ninemile Creek is that at least one or more Sensitive organisms were found to be present at each of the sites from Marcellus High School below the Village of Marcellus downstream to the additional five surveys sites in the towns of Marcellus and Camillus until we hit the last survey site below the former Allied Chemical waste beds at the Lakeland Site in the Town of Geddes.

            Our biological surveys show that from 1999 until 2004, the water quality ratings for the Lakeland sites were continually in the ‘Poor’ category, with only ‘Less Sensitive’ and pollution ‘Tolerant’ organisms found to be present at that location.  There appeared to be some slight improvements at the Lakeland site between 2005 and 2010, when the water quality ratings indicated ‘Poor’ to ‘Fair’ conditions, with some pollution sensitive organisms making a presence at the site.  Hopefully, the number of those pollution sensitive organisms will have increased since 2010, and will continue to increase in coming years.

            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, except for the Lakeland and Camillus Clubhouse sites, which were mainly in the ‘Fair’ category.  However, the Camillus Clubhouse site WQI scores were based on only two completed surveys.  Chloride readings along our Ninemile Creek survey sites ranged from an average of 49 mg/l at the Marcellus High School site to 162 mg/l at the Munro Park site in the Village of Camillus, and then jumped markedly at the Lakeland site to nearly 600 mg/l immediately below the former Allied Chemical waste beds in the Towns of Camillus and Geddes.

            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 Ninemile 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 Ninemile Creek are influenced mainly by rainfall events and discharges from Otisco Lake and various smaller tributaries that flow into Ninemile Creek between Otisco and Onondaga Lakes. Total Dissolved Solid (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 Ninemile 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.


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 28, 2020, rev. Nov. 2


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