Concentrations of boron greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) 900 ?g/L removal action level (RAL) standard were detected in water sampled by the USEPA in 2004 from three domestic wells near Beverly Shores, Indiana. The RAL regulates only human-affected concentrations of a constituent. A lack of well logs and screened depth information precluded identification of whether water from sampled wells, and their boron sources, were from human-affected or natural sources in the surficial aquifer, or associated with a previously defined natural, confined aquifer source of boron from the subtill or basal sand aquifers. A geochemically-based classification of the source of boron in ground water could potentially determine the similarity of boron to known sources or mixtures between known sources, or classify whether the relative age of the ground water predated the potential sources of contamination. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the USEPA, investigated the use of a geochemical method that applied boron stable isotopes, and concentrations of boron, tritium, and other constituents to distinguish between natural and human-affected sources of boron in ground water and thereby determine if the RAL was applicable to the situation.
Boron stable-isotope ratios and concentrations of boron in 17 ground-water samples and tritium concentrations in 9 ground-water samples collected in 2004 were used to identify geochemical differences between potential sources of boron in ground water near Beverly Shores, Indiana. Boron and d11B analyses for this investigation were made on unacidified samples to assure consistency of the result with unacidified analyses of d11B values from other investigations. Potential sources of boron included surficial-aquifer water affected by coal-combustion products (CCP) or domestic-wastewater, upward discharge of ground water from confined aquifers, and unaffected water from the surficial aquifer that was distant from human-affected boron sources.
Boron concentrations in potential ground-water sources of boron were largest (15,700 to 24,400 ?g/L) in samples of CCP-affected surficial aquifer water from four wells at a CCP landfill and smallest (27 to 63 ?g/L) in three wells in the surficial aquifer that were distant from human-affected boron sources. Boron concentrations in water from the basal sand aquifer ranged from 656 ?g/L to 1,800 ?g/L. Boron concentrations in water from three domestic-wastewater-affected surficial aquifer wells ranged from 84 to 387 ?g/L. Among the representative ground-water samples, boron concentrations from all four samples of CCP-affected surficial aquifer water and four of five samples of water from the basal sand aquifer had concentrations greater than the RAL. A comparison of boron concentrations in acid-preserved and unacidified samples indicated that boron concentrations reported for this investigation may be from about 11 to 16 percent less than would be reported in a standard analysis of an acidified sample.
The stable isotope boron-11 was most enriched in comparison to boron-10 in ground water from a confined aquifer, the basal sand aquifer (d11B, 24.6 to 34.0 per mil, five samples); it was most depleted in CCP-affected water from the surficial aquifer (d11B, 0.1 to 6.6 per mil, four samples). Domestic-wastewater-affected water from the surficial aquifer (d11B, 8.7 to 11.7 per mil, four samples) was enriched in boron-11, in comparison to individual samples of a borax detergent additive and a detergent with perborate bleach; it was intermediate in composition between basal sand aquifer water and CCP-affected water from the surficial aquifer. The similarity between a ground-water sample from the surficial aquifer and a hypothetical mixture of unaffected surficial aquifer and basal sand aquifer waters indicates the potential for long-term upward discharge of ground water into the surficial aquifer from one or more confined aquifers. Est
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USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of Ground-Water and Boron Sources by Use of Boron Stable-Isotope Ratios, Tritium, and Selected Water-Chemistry Constituents near Beverly Shores, Northwestern Indiana, 2004