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Iron in the aquifer system of Suffolk County, New York, 1990-98

Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-4126

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Abstract

High concentrations of dissolved iron in ground water contribute to the biofouling of public-supply wells, and the treatment and remediation of biofouling are costly. Water companies on Long Island, N.Y., spend several million dollars annually to recondition, redevelop, and replace supply wells and distribution lines; treat dissolved iron with sequestering agents or by filtration; and respond to iron-related complaints by customers. This report summarizes the results of studies done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Suffolk County Water Authority, to characterize the geochemistry and microbiology of iron in the aquifer system of Suffolk County. This information should be helpful for the siting and operation of supply wells. Concentrations of dissolved iron in Long Island?s ground water, and the frequency of iron biofouling of wells, are highest in ground-water-discharge zones, particularly near the south shore. Ground water along a deep north-south flowpath of the Magothy aquifer in southwestern Suffolk County becomes anaerobic (oxygen deficient) and Fe(III) reducing at a distance of 8 to 10 kilometers south of the ground-water divide, and this change coincides with the downgradient increase in dissolved iron concentrations. The distribution of organic carbon, and the distribution and local variations in reactivity of Fe(III), in Magothy aquifer sediments have resulted in localized differences in redox microenvironments. For example, Fe(III)-reducing zones are associated with anaerobic conditions, where relatively large amounts of Fe(III) oxyhydroxide grain coatings are present, whereas sulfate-reducing zones are associated with lignite-rich lenses of silt and clay and appear to have developed in response to the depletion of available Fe(III) oxyhydroxides. The sulfate-reducing zones are characterized by relatively low concentrations of dissolved iron (resulting from iron-disulfide precipitation) and may be large enough to warrant water-supply development. Specific-capacity and water-quality data from wells screened in the Magothy aquifer indicate that water from biofouled wells contains higher median concentrations of total and dissolved iron and manganese, total phosphate, and dissolved sulfate, and lower median concentrations of dissolved oxygen and alkalinity, and lower pH, than does water from unaffected wells. Corresponding data from wells screened in the upper glacial aquifer indicate that water from biofouled wells contains higher median concentrations of total and dissolved manganese and dissolved sulfate, and lower pH, than does water from unaffected wells. Filamentous bacteria were detected in 31 (or 72 percent) of the 43 biofilm samples obtained from biofouled wells during reconditioning. The predominant filamentous organism was Gallionella ferruginea, a major biofouling agent in the upper glacial and Magothy aquifers throughout Suffolk County. Mineral-saturation indices indicate that most of the well-encrusting material is deposited when the wells are shut down. Furthermore, the use of treated water (which has a high pH and sometimes high concentrations of dissolved iron) for pump prelubrication when wells are shut down could greatly increase the rate of iron oxidation.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Iron in the aquifer system of Suffolk County, New York, 1990-98
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
99-4126
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1999
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
10 p. :col. ill. ;28 cm.