A glacial aquifer system in Woodbury, Connecticut, was studied to identify factors that affect the groundwater quality in the zone of contribution to a community public-supply well. Water samples were collected during 2002-06 from the public-supply well and from 35 monitoring wells in glacial stratified deposits, glacial till, and fractured bedrock. The glacial aquifer is vulnerable to contamination from a variety of sources due to the short groundwater residence times and the urban land use in the contributing recharge area to the public-supply well. The distribution and concentrations of pH, major and trace elements, stable isotope ratios, recharge temperatures, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the oxidation-reduction (redox) conditions, were used to identify recharge source areas, aquifer source material, anthropogenic sources, chemical processes, and groundwater-flow paths from recharge areas to the public-supply well, PSW-1.
The major chemical sources to groundwater and the tracers or conditions used to identify them and their processes throughout the aquifer system include (1) bedrock and glacial stratified deposits and till, characterized by high pH and concentrations of sulfate (SO42-), bicarbonate, uranium (U), radon-222, and arsenic (As) relative to those of other wells, reducing redox conditions, enriched delta sulfur-34 (d34S) and delta carbon-13 (d13C) values, depleted delta oxygen-18 (d18O) and delta deuterium (dD) values, calcite near saturation, low recharge temperatures, and groundwater ages of more than about 9 years; (2) natural organic matter, either in sediments or in an upgradient riparian zone, characterized by high concentrations of DOC or manganese (Mn), low concentrations of dissolved oxygen (DO) and nitrate (NO3-), enriched d34S values, and depleted d18O and dD values; (3) road salt (halite), characterized by high concentrations of sodium (Na), chloride (Cl-), and calcium (Ca), and indicative chloride/bromide (Cl:Br) mass concentration ratios; (4) septic-system leachate, characterized by high concentrations of NO3-, DOC, Na, Cl-, Ca, and boron (B), delta nitrogen-15 (d15N) and d18O values, and indicative Cl:Br ratios; (5) organic solvent spills, characterized by detections of perchloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), and 1,1-dichloroethene (1,1-DCE); (6) gasoline station spills, characterized by detections of fuel oxygenates and occasionally benzene; and (7) surface-water leakage, characterized by enriched d18O and dD values and sometimes high DOC and Mn-reducing conditions. Evaluation of Cl- concentrations and Cl:Br ratios indicates that most samples were composed of mixtures of groundwater and some component of road salt or septic-system leachate. Leachate from septic-tank drainfields can cause locally anoxic conditions with NO3- concentrations of as much as 19 milligrams per liter (mg/L as N) and may provide up to 15 percent of the nitrogen in water from well PSW-1, based on mixing calculations with d15N of NO3-.
Most of the water that contributes to PSW-1 is young (less than 7 years) and derived from the glacial stratified deposits. Typically, groundwater is oxic, but localized reducing zones that result from abundances of organic matter can affect the mobilization of trace elements and the degradation of VOCs. Groundwater from fractured bedrock beneath the valley bottom, which is old (more than 50 years), and reflects a Mn-reducing to methanic redox environment, constitutes as much as 6 percent of water samples collected from monitoring wells screened at the bottom of the glacial aquifer. Dissolved As and U concentrations generally are near the minimum reporting level (MRL) (0.2 micrograms per liter or ?g/L and 0.04 ?g/L, respectively), but water from a few wells screened in glacial deposits, likely derived from underlying organic-rich Mesozoic rocks, contain As concentrations up to 7 ?g/L. At one location, concentrations of As and U were high
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Aquifer Chemistry and Transport Processes in the Zone of Contribution to a Public-Supply Well in Woodbury, Connecticut, 2002-06