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Historical ground-water-flow patterns and trends in iron concentrations in the Potomac--Raritan--Magothy aquifer system in parts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden and Gloucester Counties, New Jersey

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2003-4255

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Abstract

The Potomac-Raritan-Magothy (PRM) aquifer system is an important sole-source ground-water supply in Camden and Gloucester Counties, N.J. Elevated iron concentrations are a persistent water-quality problem associated with ground water from the PRM. In Philadelphia, the PRM no longer is usable as a water supply because of highly elevated concentrations of iron (as high as 429 mg/L [milligrams per liter]), manganese (as high as 4 mg/L), and sulfate (as high as 1,720 mg/L). A strongly reducing environment in the PRM in south Philadelphia causes these constituents to be remobilized by reductive dissolution of the aquifer matrix. By the 1920s, ground-water pumping changed the natural ground-water-flow patterns, and ground water flowed toward pumping centers in Philadelphia. By 1940, recharge areas changed from the topographically high areas east of Trenton, N.J., to the outcrop area of the PRM in Philadelphia, and the Delaware River became a source of recharge instead of a point of ground-water discharge. By 1954, the cone of depression caused by pumping at the former Philadelphia Naval Ship Yard (PNSY) exceeded 50 feet below NGVD 29, and the direction of ground-water flow was from New Jersey toward Philadelphia. Because of highly elevated concentrations of iron and manganese, pumping at the former PNSY ceased in the mid-1960s. Beginning about 1951, increased ground-water withdrawals from the PRM in New Jersey reversed the hydraulic gradient so that ground-water flow was from Philadelphia toward New Jersey under the Delaware River, making Philadelphia a recharge area for the PRM aquifer system in parts of Camden and Gloucester Counties. By 1988, water levels in the lower aquifer of the PRM in New Jersey had declined to 103 feet below NAVD 88. In 1943, dissolved iron concentrations ranged from 0.07 to 0.6 mg/L at the former PNSY. By 1967 when the wells at the PNSY were abandoned, dissolved iron concentrations had reached 46 mg/L. Dissolved iron concentrations in water from industrial wells in Philadelphia increased from 0.17 mg/L in 1949 to 19 mg/L in 1979. The concentration of dissolved iron in water from wells screened in the lower aquifer in New Jersey also increased with time. By 1985, dissolved iron concentrations were as high as 16 mg/L for Eagle Point refinery wells.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Historical ground-water-flow patterns and trends in iron concentrations in the Potomac--Raritan--Magothy aquifer system in parts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Camden and Gloucester Counties, New Jersey
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
2003-4255
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2003
Language:
ENGLISH
Description:
vi, 37 p. : ill., maps (some col.) ; 28 cm.