The National Water-Quality Assessment Program of the U.S. Geological Survey has an ongoing Source Water-Quality Assessment program designed to characterize the quality of water in aquifers used as a source of drinking-water supply for some of the largest metropolitan areas in the Nation. In addition to the sampling of the source waters, sampling of finished or treated waters was done in the second year of local studies to evaluate if the organic compounds detected in the source waters also were present in the water supplied to the public.
An evaluation of source-water quality used in selected groundwater-supplied public water systems in east-central Nebraska and in the south Denver metropolitan area of Colorado was completed during 2002 through 2004. Fifteen wells in the Plio-Pleistocene alluvial and glacial deposits in east-central Nebraska (the High Plains study) and 12 wells in the Dawson and Denver aquifers, south of Denver (the South Platte study), were sampled during the first year to obtain information on the occurrence and distribution of selected organic chemicals in the source waters. During the second year of the study, two wells in east-central Nebraska were resampled, along with the associated finished water derived from these wells, to determine if organic compounds detected in the source water also were present in the finished water. Selection of the second-phase sampling sites was based on detections of the most-frequently occurring organic compounds from the first-year Source Water-Quality Assessment study results. The second-year sampling also required that finished waters had undergone water-quality treatment processes before being distributed to the public.
Sample results from the first year of sampling groundwater wells in east-central Nebraska show that the most-frequently detected organic compounds were the pesticide atrazine and its degradate, deethylatrazine (DEA, otherwise known as 2-chloro-4-isopropylamino-6-amino-s-triazine or CIAT), which were detected in 9 of the 15 wells (60 percent of the samples). The second most frequently detected organic compound was tetrachloroethylene, detected in 4 of the 15 wells (27 percent of the samples), followed by chloroform, trichloroethylene, and 2-hydroxyatrazine (2-hydroxy-4-isopropylamino-6-ethylamino-s-triazine, or OIET), present in 3 of the 15 wells (20 percent of the samples). The pesticide compounds deisopropylatrazine (2-chloro-6-ethylamino-4-amino-s-triazine, or CEAT), metolachlor, and simazine and the volatile organic compound cis-1,2-dichloroethylene were detected in 2 of the 15 wells, and the compounds diuron and 1,2-dichloroethane were detected in only 1 of the 15 wells during the first-year sampling. Most detections of these compounds were at or near the minimum reporting levels, and none were greater than their regulatory maximum contaminant level.
There were few detections of organic compounds during the first year of sampling groundwater wells in the South Platte study area. The compounds atrazine, deethylatrazine, picloram, tetrachloroethylene, methyl-tert-butyl-ether (MTBE), tris(2-butoxyethyl)phosphate, and bromoform were detected only once in all the samples from the 12 wells. Most detections of these compounds were at or near the minimum reporting levels, and none were greater than their regulatory maximum contaminant level.
Second-year sampling, which included the addition of paired source- and finished-water samples, was completed at two sites in the High Plains study area. Source-water samples from the second-year sampling had detections of atrazine and deethylatrazine; at one site deisopropylatrazine and chloroform also were detected. The finished-water samples, which represent the source water after blending with water from other wells and treatment, indicated a decrease in the concentrations of the pesticides at one site, whereas concentrations remained nearly constant at a second site. The trihalomethanes (THMs or disinfec