Brackish water from Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries has entered the Aquia aquifer in east-central Anne Arundel County, Maryland, USA. This determination was made based on chloride analyses of water samples collected in wells screened in the Aquia aquifer between October 1988 and May 1989. The Aquia aquifer, which is composed of fine- to medium-grained sand, is a shallow, unconfined aquifer in this area. Land use is primarily urban, consisting of a mixture of residential and light commercial areas. Associated with the urban setting is the potential for chloride contamination to enter the Aquia aquifer from anthropogenic sources, such as residential septic-tank effluent, leaky public sewer lines, road-deicing salt, stormwater infiltration basins, and domestic water-conditioning recharge effluent. In order to map the distribution of bay-water intrusion in the Aquia aquifer, chloride derived from Chesapeake Bay was differentiated from chloride derived from anthropogenic sources by comparing the ratio of dissolved bromide to dissolved chloride (bromide:chloride) in groundwater to the distinctive ratio in Chesapeake Bay water. Two additional factors considered in determining the source of the chloride were nitrogen concentrations and well-screen positions of sampled wells in relation to the estimated depth of the fresh-water/brackish-water interface. Of 36 Aquia-aquifer water samples with chloride concentrations greater than 30 mg/L, 22 had bromide:chloride ratios similar to the ratio in Chesapeake Bay water, an indication that bay water is the primary source of the chloride. Of the other 14 samples with bromide:chloride ratios dissimilar to the ratio in Chesapeake Bay water, seven were from wells where screen positions were substantially above the estimated fresh-water/brackish-water interface. Three of these samples had nitrogen concentrations (as nitrite plus nitrate) greater than 3.0 mg/L, an indication that chloride in these groundwater samples comes from anthropogenic sources, at least in part.
Additional publication details
Use of bromide:Chloride ratios to differentiate potential sources of chloride in a shallow, unconfined aquifer affected by brackish-water intrusion