The high permeability of the sand and limestone sediments and shallow water table of the Biscayne aquifer make ground water vulnerable to contamination by human activities. To assess potential contamination in the aquifer, untreated ground water was sampled from 30 public-supply wells (40-165 feet deep) in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties, 32 shallow wells (10-50 feet deep) in a recently urbanized (residential and light commercial) part of Broward County, and 3 shallow reference wells in Broward County. Results from sample analyses indicate that major ions, pH, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, and trace element concentrations were generally within the range indicative of background concentrations, except for: (1) substantially higher bromide concentrations in water from public-supply wells in southern Miami-Dade County; (2) a few relatively high (greater than 2 milligrams per liter) concentrations of nitrate in water from public-supply wells near agricultural lands in Miami-Dade and southern Broward Counties; and (3) a few relatively high concentrations of arsenic (greater than 10 micrograms per liter) in water from some shallow urban wells near golf courses.
Pesticides were detected in every public-supply well, in most of the shallow, urban monitoring wells (78 percent), and in one reference well; however, no pesticide concentration exceeded any drinking-water standard. Fifteen different pesticides or their degradation products were detected. The most frequently detected pesticides were atrazine and tebuthiuron; less frequently detected were the herbicides diuron, fenuron, prometon, metolachlor, simazine, and 2,6-diethylaniline.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were detected in most of the public-supply wells (77 percent) and shallow, urban wells (91 percent) and in two of the three reference wells. Thirty-two different VOCs were detected in ground water in the Biscayne aquifer, with cis-1,2-dichloroethene the most frequently detected VOC in the public-supply wells, followed by methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), 1,4-dichlorobenzene, and chloroform. Toluene, p-isopropyltoluene, and 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene were the most frequently detected VOCs in the shallow, urban wells. Concentrations of all VOCs were less than the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for public drinking water, except in two samples from public-supply wells near industrialized areas that had vinyl chloride concentrations (3 and 5 micrograms per liter) above the MCL of 1 microgram per liter.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Quality of ground water in the Biscayne Aquifer in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, Florida, 1996-1998, with emphasis on contaminants