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Assessment of hydrogeologic terrains, well-construction characteristics, groundwater hydraulics, and water-quality and microbial data for determination of surface-water-influenced groundwater supplies in West Virginia

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5048

Prepared in cooperation with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau of Public Health, Office of Environmental Health Services
By:
and
DOI:10.3133/sir20165048

Links

  • Document: Report (25.7 MB pdf)
  • Figures:
  • Appendixes:
    • Appendix 1 - (168 KB xlsx) Description of 324 wells in West Virginia sampled as part of the U.S. Geological Survey and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection statewide Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring Network
    • Appendix 2 - (115 KB xlsx) Description of wells in West Virginia, including casing length and well depth, that are part of the U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Site Inventory database with Escherichia coli, fecal coliform, and total coliform data that are stored in the U.S. Geological Survey Water-Quality database
    • Appendix 3 - (111 KB) Permit data for public groundwater supplies in West Virginia with accompanying counts of number of potential sources of contamination within the respective source-water-protection area for each public groundwater supply source
  • Version History: Version History (2.20 KB txt)
  • Download citation as: RIS

Abstract

In January 2014, a storage tank leaked, spilling a large quantity of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River in West Virginia and contaminating the water supply for more than 300,000 people. In response, the West Virginia Legislature passed Senate Bill 373, which requires the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) to assess the susceptibility and vulnerability of public surface-water-influenced groundwater supply sources (SWIGS) and surface-water intakes statewide. In response to this mandate for reassessing SWIGS statewide, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the WVDHHR, Bureau of Public Health, Office of Environmental Health Services, compiled available data and summarized the results of previous groundwater studies to provide the WVDHHR with data that could be used as part of the process for assessing and determining SWIGS.

Existing geologic, hydrologic, well-construction, water-quality, and other related data and information from previous U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrogeologic studies and the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS) database, in conjunction with data from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (WVBPH) Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection database and files, were collected, compiled, and analyzed to help the WVDHHR to better assess public groundwater supply wells that may meet the definition of a surface-water-influenced- groundwater supply (SWIGS).

In this study, measures of intrinsic susceptibility, which are characterized by the physical properties that affect the ease with which water moves through the unsaturated zone and, subsequently, into the saturated zone within an aquifer, showed that karst limestone aquifers are the aquifers most intrinsically susceptible to contamination within the State of West Virginia. Karst limestone aquifers are present within Cambrian- and Ordovician-age formations within West Virginia’s eastern panhandle and in Mississippian-age limestones within the Greenbrier River valley. Solution development within these limestone aquifers allows rapid recharge and flow of groundwater within the aquifer, both of which allow surface contaminants to easily enter the aquifer and travel long distances in a short period of time.

Alluvial aquifers bordering the Ohio River in western West Virginia are also potentially highly susceptible to contamination because these alluvial aquifers can receive significant recharge from the adjacent Ohio River. Any potential contaminants that may be present in the river have the potential to enter the aquifer and contaminate wells completed within the sand and gravel alluvial sediments within which the wells are completed. These same alluvial sediments, however, help to retard the movement of bacteria and other potentially pathogenic organisms, such as Cryptosporidia and Giardia lamblia, into the aquifer. As a result, samples from alluvial aquifers bordering the Ohio River and elsewhere within the State do not commonly test positive for indicator bacteria, such as total coliform, fecal coliform, or Escherichia coli (E. coli). The alluvial sediments do not, however, provide assimilative capacity with respect to water soluble compounds such as nitrate and certain volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds. Therefore, the Ohio River alluvial aquifers are highly susceptible to organic compounds present in the river or on the land surface near a well. These aquifers are also susceptible to nitrate contamination from fertilizers, pesticides, and manure, which are commonly used on the fertile agricultural soils present on terraces along the Ohio River.

Abandoned-coal-mine aquifers, which are typically used as a source of groundwater in southern West Virginia, are moderately susceptible to contamination. The vast network of voids from mine entries provide vast storage for groundwater in abandoned mine aquifers, and fracturing of overburden strata, which is common in areas of past or current mining, can allow rapid infiltration of contaminants to the aquifer. Where streams cross over below-drainage underground coal mines, there is an increased potential for contamination of coal-mine aquifers. As a result, above-drainage underground coal mines, those mines that are present at an elevation above local tributary drainage, are probably less susceptible to contamination than are below-drainage underground coal mines. Public groundwater supplies in abandoned coal mines need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to assess the potential for recharge of contaminated surface water to enter below-drainage underground coal-mine aquifers and to assess potential hydraulic conductivity to nearby surface-water bodies, such as lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams.

Fractured-rock aquifers compose an additional major type of aquifer within the State of West Virginia. Owing to their low permeability and their typically small groundwater capture areas, fractured-rock aquifers within the State of West Virginia typically have low susceptibility to contamination. However, there are exceptions, and wells completed in fractured-rock aquifers that are in close proximity to streams may be adversely affected by induced recharge from the stream. Where such systems are present, frequent bacterial testing of the source water can be used to ascertain the potential for microbial contamination of the aquifer.

Intrinsic susceptibility alone does not fully predict whether or not a well is vulnerable to contamination, only that the hydrogeologic terrain is suitable for rapid transport of pathogenic organisms or chemical compounds to and within the aquifer. However, contaminants may or may not be present in the recharge water to an individual well or well field. Therefore, an assessment of potential contaminant sources, such as nearby gas wells, landfills, underground storage tanks, above ground storage tanks, major transportation corridors, surface or underground coal mines, and flood plains, is needed to assess vulnerability. The assessments need to be conducted on a case-by-case basis or, as has been done in this study, by collecting and compiling the number of potential contaminant sources that may be present in the source-water-protection area for an individual public groundwater supply source.

Groundwater public-supply systems in areas of high intrinsic susceptibility and with a large number of potential contaminant sources within the recharge or source-water-protection area of individual wells or well fields are potentially vulnerable to contamination and probably warrant further evaluation as potential SWIGS. However, measures can be taken to educate the local population and initiate safety protocols and protective strategies to appropriately manage contaminant sources to prevent release of contaminants to the aquifer, therefore, reducing vulnerability of these systems to contamination. However, each public groundwater supply source needs to be assessed on an individual basis. Data presented in this report can be used to categorize and prioritize wells and springs that have a high potential for intrinsic susceptibility or vulnerability to contamination.

Suggested Citation

Kozar, M.D., and Paybins, K.S., 2016, Assessment of hydrogeologic terrains, well-construction characteristics, groundwater hydraulics, and water-quality and microbial data for determination of surface-water-influenced groundwater supplies in West Virginia (ver. 1.1, October 2016): U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5048, 55 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165048.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

ISSN: 2328-031X (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods of Study 
  • Hydrogeologic Terrains as a Factor for Assessing Aquifer Susceptibility
  • Groundwater Hydraulics as a Factor for Assessing Aquifer Susceptibility 
  • Well-Construction Characteristics as a Factor for Assessing Vulnerability
  • Water-Quality and Microbial Data as a Factor for Assessing Vulnerability
  • Potential Sources of Contamination as a Factor for Assessing Vulnerability
  • Summary of Aquifer Susceptibility and Vulnerability
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Description of 324 wells in West Virginia sampled as part of the U.S. Geological Survey and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection statewide Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring Network
  • Appendix 2. Description of wells in West Virginia, including casing length and well depth, that are part of the U.S. Geological Survey Groundwater Site Inventory database with Escherichia coli, fecal coliform, and total coliform data that are stored in the U.S. Geological Survey Water-Quality database
  • Appendix 3. Permit data for public groundwater supplies in West Virginia with accompanying counts of number of potential sources of contamination within the respective source-water-protection area for each public groundwater supply source.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Assessment of hydrogeologic terrains, well-construction characteristics, groundwater hydraulics, and water-quality and microbial data for determination of surface-water-influenced groundwater supplies in West Virginia
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2016-5048
DOI:
10.3133/sir20165048
Edition:
Version 1.0: Originally posted August 30, 2016; Version 1.1: October 24, 2016
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
West Virginia Water Science Center
Description:
Report: vii, 54 p.; 2 Figures; 3 Appendixes
Country:
United States
State:
West Virginia
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
Y