Concerns about overuse and potential contamination of major aquifers in the southeastern part of North Carolina resulted in the initiation of a subsurface water quality study in February 2001. The focus of this study was to examine variations in nutrients (NO3-, TRP, SO42- Cl-, NH4+) and total dissolved Fe in the Cretaceous Peedee and Tertiary Castle Hayne Limestone aquifers of northeastern New Hanover County. Water samples were collected monthly for one year from sixteen wells located in the Porters Neck area (west of the Intracoastal Waterway and south of Futch Creek) and four springs located on the south side of Futch Creek. Variations in selective nutrient concentrations were measured between and within each aquifer. Concentrations of NH4+ and Fe increased in the Peedee sandstone aquifer during the warmer summer and early fall months. In late summer to early fall, Fe, NO 3-, NH4+, and TRP concentrations in the Castle Hayne Limestone aquifer were significantly higher than in the spring and winter months. Chloride and SO 42- concentrations for the Castle Hayne Limestone aquifer both increased during the warmer months, probably as a result of saltwater intrusion. Factors considered for nutrient and Fe variance include: temperature variation, anaerobic conditions, subsurface stratigraphy/structure, recharge locations, site location and surface fertilization. The shallower Castle Hayne Limestone aquifer showed seasonal variability in the study area, whereas the Peedee sandstone aquifer showed little to no seasonal variability. Increases in NO3- and TRP lagged slightly behind periods of high fertilization and were more prevalent down-dip of a major golf course. Nutrient content and seasonal variation of Futch Creek springs indicated that they originate from the Castle Hayne Limestone aquifer.
Additional publication details
Chemical constituents in the Peedee and Castle Hayne aquifers: Porters Neck area, New Hanover County, North Carolina