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As part of the U.S. Geological Survey?s National Water-Quality Assessment Program, ground-water samples were collected from 34 existing wells in the Cook Inlet Basin in south-central Alaska during 1999. All ground-water samples were from aquifers composed of glacial or alluvial sediments. The water samples were used to determine the occurrence and distribution of selected major ions, nutrients, trace elements, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, radioisotopes, and environmental isotopes. Of 34 samples, 29 were from wells chosen by using a grid-based random-selection process. Water samples from five major public-supply wells also were collected.
Radon-222 and arsenic concentrations exceeded drinking-water standards proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 39 and 18 percent of sampled wells, respectively. The highest radon concentration measured during this study was 610 picocuries per liter; 12 of 31 samples exceeded the proposed maximum contaminant level of 300 picocuries per liter. The highest arsenic concentration was 29 micrograms per liter; 6 of 34 samples exceeded the proposed maximum contaminant level of 10 micrograms per liter. Human activities may be increasing the concen- tration of nitrate in ground water, but nitrate concentrations in all samples were less than the maximum contaminant level of 10 milligrams per liter as nitrogen. Concentrations of nitrate were highest in Anchorage and were as great as 4.8 milligrams per liter as nitrogen. Dissolved-solids concentrations ranged from 77 to 986 milligrams per liter; only 2 of 34 wells yielded water having greater than 500 milligrams per liter. Iron and manganese concentrations exceeded secondary maximum contaminant levels in 18 and 42 percent of samples, respectively.
Concentrations of all pesticides and volatile organic compounds detected in ground-water samples were very low, less than 1 microgram per liter. No pesticide or volatile organic compounds were detected at concentrations exceeding drinking-water standards or guidelines. Water samples from one-half of the wells sampled had no detectable concentrations of pesticides or volatile organic carbons, at the parts-per-billion level.
Concentrations of stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in ground-water samples were similar to concentrations expected for modern precipitation and for water that has been affected by evaporation. Tritium activities and concentrations of chlorofluorocarbons indicated that the water samples collected from most wells were recharged less than 50 years ago.