In 2010, groundwater from 20 Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) production wells was tested for 69 organic-wastewater compounds (OWCs). The OWCs detected in one-half of the sampled wells are widely used in industrial and environmental applications and commonly occur in many wastes and stormwater. To identify factors that contribute to the occurrence of these constituents in BWL wells, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) interpreted the results of these analyses and related detections of OWCs to local characteristics and groundwater geochemistry.
Analysis of groundwater-chemistry data collected by the BWL during routine monitoring from 1969 to 2011 indicates that the geochemistry of the BWL wells has changed over time, with the major difference being an increase in sodium and chloride. The concentrations of sodium and chloride were positively correlated to frequency of OWC detections. The BWL wells studied are all completed in the Saginaw aquifer, which consists of water-bearing sandstones of Pennsylvanian age. The Saginaw aquifer is underlain by the Parma-Bayport aquifer, and overlain by the Glacial aquifer. Two possible sources of sodium and chloride were evaluated: basin brines by way of the Parma-Bayport aquifer, and surficial sources by way of the Glacial aquifer. To determine if water from the underlying aquifer had influenced well-water geochemistry over time, the total dissolved solids concentration and changes in major ion concentrations were examined with respect to well depth, age, and pumping rate. To address a possible surficial source of sodium and chloride, 25 well, aquifer, or hydrologic characteristics, and 2 groundwater geochemistry variables that might influence whether, or the rate at which, water from the land surface could reach each well were compared to OWC detections and well chemistry.
The statistical tests performed during this study, using available variables, indicated that reduced time of travel of water from the land surface to the well opening was significantly correlated with detections of OWCs. No specific well or aquifer characteristic was correlated with OWC detections; however, wells with detections tended to have less modeled confining material thickness (as simulated in the regional groundwater flow model), which is an estimate of the amount of clay or shale between the Glacial and Saginaw aquifers. Additional analyses and collection of other data would be required to more conclusively identify the source and to determine the potential vulnerability of other wells because each BWL well may have a somewhat unique set of characteristics that governs its response to pumping. Therefore, it is possible that a relevant explanatory variable was not included in this analysis. The current patterns of geochemistry, and the relation between these patterns and volume of pumpage for the BWL wells, indicates other wells may be susceptible to OWCs in the future.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Relation between organic-wastewater compounds, groundwater geochemistry, and well characteristics for selected wells in Lansing, Michigan