Analysis of groundwater response to tidal fluctuations, Operable Unit 2, Area 8, Naval Base Kitsap, Keyport, Washington

Open-File Report 2018-1082
Prepared in cooperation with the Department of the Navy, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Northwest
By:  and 



Operable Unit 2, Area 8, at Naval Base Kitsap, Keyport is the site of a former chrome-plating facility that released metals (primarily chromium and cadmium), chlorinated volatile organic compounds, and petroleum compounds into the local environment. To ensure long-term protectiveness, as stipulated in the Fourth Five-Year Review for the site, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the Suquamish Tribe, to collect data to monitor the contamination left in place and to ensure the site does not pose a risk to human health or the environment. To support these efforts, refined information was needed on the interaction of fresh groundwater with seawater in response to the up-to 13-ft tidal fluctuations at this nearshore site adjacent to Port Orchard Bay. The information was analyzed to meet the primary objective of this investigation, which was to determine the optimal time during the semi-diurnal and the neap-spring tidal cycles to sample groundwater for freshwater contaminants in Area 8 monitoring wells.

Groundwater levels and specific conductance in five monitoring wells, along with marine water-levels (tidal levels) in Port Orchard Bay, were monitored every 15 minutes during a 3-week duration to determine how nearshore groundwater responds to tidal forcing. Time series data were collected from October 24, 2017, to November 16, 2017, a period that included neap and spring tides. Vertical profiles of specific conductance were also measured once in the screened interval of each well prior to instrument deployment to determine if a freshwater/saltwater interface was present in the well during that particular time.

The vertical profiles of specific conductance were measured only one time during an ebbing tide at approximately the top, middle, and bottom of the saturated thickness within the screened interval of each well. The landward-most well, MW8-8, was completely freshwater, while one of the most seaward wells, MW8-9, was completely saline. A distinct saltwater interface was measured in the three other shallow wells (MW8-11, MW8-12, and MW8-14), with the topmost groundwater occurring fresh underlain by higher conductivity water.

Lag times between minimum spring-tide level and minimum groundwater levels in wells ranged from about 2 to 4.5 hours in the less-than 20-ft deep wells screened across the water table, and was about 7 hours for the single 48-ft deep well screened below the water table. Those lag times were surprisingly long considering the wells are all located within 200-ft of the shoreline and the local geology is largely coarse-grained glacial outwash deposits. Various manmade subsurface features, such as slurry walls and backfilled excavations, likely influence and confuse the connectivity between seawater and groundwater.

The specific-conductance time-series data showed clear evidence of substantial saltwater intrusion into the screened intervals of most shallow wells. Unexpectedly, the intrusion was associated with the neap part of the tidal cycle around November 13–16, when relatively low barometric pressure and high southerly winds led to the highest high and low tides measured during the monitoring period. The data consistently indicated that the groundwater had the lowest specific conductance (was least mixed with seawater) during the prior neap tides around October 30, the same period when the shallow groundwater levels were lowest. Although the specific conductance response is somewhat different between wells, the data do suggest that it is the heights of the actual high-high and low-low tides, regardless of whether or not they occur during the neap or spring part of the cycle, that allows seawater intrusion into the nearshore aquifer at Area 8.

With all the data taken into consideration, the optimal time for sampling the shallow monitoring wells at Area 8 would be centered on a 2–5-hour period following the predicted low-low tide during neap tide, with due consideration of local atmospheric pressure and wind conditions that have the potential to generate tides that can be substantially higher than those predicted from lunar-solar tidal forces. The optimal time for sampling the deeper monitoring wells at Area 8 would be during the 6–8-hour period following a predicted low-low tide, also during the neap tide part of the tidal cycle. The specific time window to sample each well following a low tide can be found in table 5. Those periods are when groundwater in the wells is most fresh and least diluted by seawater intrusion. In addition to timing, consideration should be given to collecting undisturbed samples from the top of the screened interval (or top of the water table if below the top of the interval) to best characterize contaminant concentrations in freshwater. A downhole conductivity probe could be used to identify the saltwater interface, above which would be the ideal depth for sampling.

Suggested Citation

Opatz, C.C., and Dinicola, R.S., 2018, Analysis of groundwater response to tidal fluctuations, Operable Unit 2, Area 8, Naval Base Kitsap, Keyport, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018-1082, 20 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Objectives and Scope
  • Field Data Collection
  • Results and Discussion
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Analysis of groundwater response to tidal fluctuations, Operable Unit 2, Area 8, Naval Base Kitsap, Keyport, Washington
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1082
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181082
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Washington Water Science Center
Description Report: iv, 20 p.
Country United States
State Washington
City Keyport
Other Geospatial Naval Base Kitsap
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details