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Sources and distribution of nitrate in ground water at a farmed field irrigated with sewage treatment-plant effluent, Tallahassee, Florida

Water-Resources Investigations Report 90-4006

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Abstract

The city of Tallahassee, Florida began applying sewage treatment-plant effluent to a sprayfield southeast of the city in 1980. Fertilizers containing inorganic nitrogen were also applied in conjunction with the operation of a commercial farm at this site. Analysis of groundwater in the surficial aquifer and the Upper Floridan aquifer have indicated that nitrate concentrations in some wells exceed the prescribed drinking water maximum contaminant level of 10 mg/L (nitrate as nitrogen). Nitrate concentrations greater than the maximum contaminant level were not detected in samples from monitoring wells outside the sprayfield boundary. Analyses of water from the unsaturated zone indicated that conversion of organic nitrogen and ammonia to nitrate was complete before the nitrogen- enriched water reached the water table. Groundwater samples from wells in the surficial and Upper Floridan aquifers less than 100 ft deep located inside sprayed areas had mean concentrations of nitrate much higher than samples from similar wells located outside sprayed areas at the southeast sprayfield. These shallow wells inside the sprayed areas were the only wells in which the maximum contaminant level for nitrate was exceeded. Analyses of the nitrogen isotope ratios in groundwater were used to determine whether the major source of nitrogen was treated sewage or fertilizers. The nitrogen isotope ratios in contaminated groundwater at the southeast sprayfield were compared to those at another sprayfield southwest of the city, where treated sewage was the sole source of nitrogen. Statistical analyses indicated a significant difference in the nitrogen isotope ratios at the two sites, indicating that both nitrogen sources are significant at the southeast sprayfield. (USGS)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Sources and distribution of nitrate in ground water at a farmed field irrigated with sewage treatment-plant effluent, Tallahassee, Florida
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
90-4006
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1990
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Books and Open-File Reports [distributor],
Description:
v, 33 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.