Particulates that move with ground water and those that are artificially mobilized during well purging could be incorporated into water samples during collection and could cause trace-element concentrations to vary in unfiltered samples, and possibly in filtered samples (typically 0.45-um (micron) pore size) as well, depending on the particle-size fractions present. Therefore, measured concentrations may not be representative of those in the aquifer. Ground water may contain particles of various sizes and shapes that are broadly classified as colloids, which do not settle from water, and particulates, which do. In order to investigate variations in trace-element concentrations in ground-water samples as a function of particle concentrations and particle-size fractions, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, collected samples from five wells completed in the unconfined, oxic Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system of the New Jersey Coastal Plain. Samples were collected by purging with a portable pump at low flow (0.2-0.5 liters per minute and minimal drawdown, ideally less than 0.5 foot). Unfiltered samples were collected in the following sequence: (1) within the first few minutes of pumping, (2) after initial turbidity declined and about one to two casing volumes of water had been purged, and (3) after turbidity values had stabilized at less than 1 to 5 Nephelometric Turbidity Units. Filtered samples were split concurrently through (1) a 0.45-um pore size capsule filter, (2) a 0.45-um pore size capsule filter and a 0.0029-um pore size tangential-flow filter in sequence, and (3), in selected cases, a 0.45-um and a 0.05-um pore size capsule filter in sequence. Filtered samples were collected concurrently with the unfiltered sample that was collected when turbidity values stabilized. Quality-assurance samples consisted of sequential duplicates (about 25 percent) and equipment blanks. Concentrations of particles were determined by light scattering. Variations in concentrations aluminum and iron (1 -74 and 1-199 ug/L (micrograms per liter), respectively), common indicators of the presence of particulate-borne trace elements, were greatest in sample sets from individual wells with the greatest variations in turbidity and particle concentration. Differences in trace-element concentrations in sequentially collected unfiltered samples with variable turbidity were 5 to 10 times as great as those in concurrently collected samples that were passed through various filters. These results indicate that turbidity must be both reduced and stabilized even when low-flow sample-collection techniques are used in order to obtain water samples that do not contain considerable particulate artifacts. Currently (2001) available techniques need to be refined to ensure that the measured trace-element concentrations are representative of those that are mobile in the aquifer water.
Additional publication details
Variation in aluminum, iron, and particle concentrations in oxic ground-water samples collected by use of tangential-flow ultrafiltration with low-flow sampling
Larger Work Title:
Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Chemical and Biological Early Warning Monitoring for Water, Food, and Ground