Influence of fracture anisotropy on ground water ages and chemistry, Valley and Ridge province, Pennsylvania

Ground Water

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Model ground water ages based on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and tritium/helium-3 (3H/3He) data were obtained from two arrays of nested piezometers located on the north limb of an anticline in fractured sedimentary rocks in the Valley and Ridge geologic province of Pennsylvania. The fracture geometry of the gently east plunging fold is very regular and consists predominately of south dipping to subhorizontal to north dipping bedding-plane parting and east striking, steeply dipping axial-plane spaced cleavage. In the area of the piezometer arrays, which trend north-south on the north limb of the fold, north dipping bedding-plane parting is a more dominant fracture set than is steeply south dipping axial-plane cleavage. The dating of ground water from the piezometer arrays reveals that ground water traveling along paths parallel to the dip direction of bedding-plane parting has younger 3H/3He and CFC model ages, or a greater component of young water, than does ground water traveling along paths opposite to the dip direction. In predominantly unmixed samples there is a strong positive correlation between age of the young fraction of water and dissolved sodium concentration. The travel times inferred from the model ages are significantly longer than those previously calculated by a ground water flow model, which assumed isotropically fractured layers parallel to topography. A revised model factors in the directional anisotropy to produce longer travel times. Ground water travel times in the watershed therefore appear to be more influenced by anisotropic fracture geometry than previously realized. This could have significant implications for ground water models in other areas underlain by similarly tilted or folded sedimentary rock, such as elsewhere in the Valley and Ridge or the early Mesozoic basins.

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Influence of fracture anisotropy on ground water ages and chemistry, Valley and Ridge province, Pennsylvania
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Ground Water
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Ground Water
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