Pike County, a 545 square-mile area in northeastern Pennsylvania, has experienced the largest relative population growth of any county in the state from 1990 to 2000 and its population is projected to grow substantially through 2025. This growing population may result in added dependence and stresses on water resources, including the potential to reduce the quantity and degrade the quality of groundwater and associated stream base flow with changing land use. Groundwater is the main source of drinking water in the county and is derived primarily from fractured-rock aquifers (shales, siltstones, and sandstones) and some unconsolidated glacial deposits that are recharged locally from precipitation. The principal land uses in the county as of 2005 were public, residential, agricultural, hunt club/private recreational, roads, and commercial. The public lands cover a third of the county and include national park, state park, and other state lands, much of which are forested. Individual on-site wells and wastewater disposal are common in many residential areas.
In 2007, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Pike County Conservation District, began a study to provide current information on groundwater quality throughout the county that will be helpful for water-resource planning. The countywide reconnaissance assessment of groundwater quality documents current conditions with existing land uses and may serve as a baseline of groundwater quality for future comparison.
Twenty wells were sampled in 2007 throughout Pike County to represent groundwater quality in the principal land uses (commercial, high-density and moderate-density residential with on-site wastewater disposal, residential in a sewered area, pre-development, and undeveloped) and geologic units (five fractured-rock aquifers and one glacial unconsolidated aquifer). Analyses selected for the groundwater samples were intended to identify naturally occurring constituents from the aquifer or constituents introduced by human activities that pose a health risk or otherwise were of concern in groundwater in the county. The analyses included major ions, nutrients, selected trace metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), selected organic wastewater compounds, gross alpha-particle and gross beta-particle activity, uranium, and radon-222. Analyses of the 20 samples were primarily for dissolved constituents, but six samples were analyzed for both dissolved and total metals.
Results of the 2007 sampling indicated few water-quality problems, although concentrations of some constituents indicated influence of human activities on groundwater. No constituent analyzed exceeded any primary drinking-water standard or maximum contaminant level (MCL) established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Radon-222 levels were greater than, or equal to, the proposed MCL of 300 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in water from 15 (75 percent) of the 20 wells. Radon-222 levels did not exceed the alternative MCL of 4,000 pCi/L in any groundwater sample. Radon-222 is naturally occurring, and the greatest concentrations (up to 2,650 pCi/L) were in water samples from wells in members of the Catskill Formation, a fractured-rock aquifer. The dissolved arsenic concentration of 3.9 micrograms per liter (ug/L) in one sample was greater than the health-advisory (HA) level of 2 ug/L but less than the MCL of 10 ug/L. Recommended or secondary maximum contaminant levels (SMCLs) were exceeded for pH, dissolved iron, and dissolved manganese.
In six samples analyzed for dissolved and total concentrations of selected metals, total concentrations commonly were much greater than dissolved concentrations of iron, and to a lesser degree, for arsenic, lead, copper, and manganese. Concentrations of iron above the SMCL of 300 ug/L may be more widespread in the county for particulate iron than for dissolved iron. The total arsenic concentration in one of the six samples was greater than the HA level of