In October 1993, the U.S. Geological Survey began a study to characterize the hydrogeology of the shallow aquifer system at the Explosive Experimental Area, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Site, Dahlgren, Virginia, which is located on the Potomac River in the Coastal Plain Physiographic Province. The study provides a description of the hydrogeologic units, directions of ground-water flow, and back-ground water quality in the study area to a depth of about 100 feet. Lithologic, geophysical, and hydrologic data were collected from 28 wells drilled for this study, from 3 existing wells, and from outcrops. The shallow aquifer system at the Explosive Experimental Area consists of two fining-upward sequences of Pleistocene fluvial-estuarine deposits that overlie Paleocene-Eocene marine deposits of the Nanjemoy-Marlboro confining unit. The surficial hydrogeologic unit is the Columbia aquifer. Horizontal linear flow of water in this aquifer generally responds to the surface topography, discharging to tidal creeks, marshes, and the Potomac River, and rates of flow in this aquifer range from 0.003 to 0.70 foot per day. The Columbia aquifer unconformably overlies the upper confining unit 12-an organic-rich clay that is 0 to 55 feet thick. The upper confining unit conformably overlies the upper confined aquifer, a 0- to 35-feet thick unit that consists of interbedded fine-grained to medium-grained sands and clay. The upper confined aquifer probably receives most of its recharge from the adjacent and underlying Nanjemoy-Marlboro confining unit. Water in the upper confined aquifer generally flows eastward, northward, and northeastward at about 0.03 foot per day toward the Potomac River and Machodoc Creek. The Nanjemoy-Marlboro confining unit consists of glauconitic, fossiliferous silty fine-grained sands of the Nanjemoy Formation. Where the upper confined system is absent, the Nanjemoy-Marlboro confining unit is directly overlain by the Columbia aquifer. In some parts of the Explosive Experimental Area, horizontal hydraulic conductivities of the Nanjemoy-Marlboro confining unit and the Columbia aquifer are similar (from 10-4 to 10-2 foot per day), and these units effectively combine to form a thick (greater than 50 feet) aquifer. The background water quality of the shallow aquifer system is characteristic of ground waters in the Virginia Coastal Plain Physiographic Province. Water in the Columbia aquifer is a mixed ionic type, has a median pH of 5.9, and a median total dissolved solids of 106 milligrams per liter. Water in the upper confined aquifer and Nanjemoy-Marlboro confining unit is a sodium- calcium-bicarbonate type, and generally has higher pH, dissolved solids, and alkalinity than water in the Columbia aquifer. Water in the upper confined aquifer and some parts of the Columbia aquifer is anoxic, and it has high concentrations of dissolved iron, manganese, and sulfide.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeology and water quality of the shallow aquifer system at the Explosive Experimental Area, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Site, Dahlgren, Virginia
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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