Ground-water flow in the shallow aquifer system at the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Virginia

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4077
Prepared in cooperation with the Environmental Directorate, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown



The Environmental Directorate of the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Virginia, is concerned about possible contamination of ground water at the Station. Ground water at the Station flows through a shallow system of layered aquifers and leaky confining units. The units of the shallow aquifer system are the Columbia aquifer, the Cornwallis Cave confining unit, the Cornwallis Cave aquifer, the Yorktown confining unit, and the Yorktown-Eastover aquifer. The Eastover-Calvert confining unit separates the shallow aquifer system from deeper confined aquifers beneath the Station.

A three-dimensional, finite-difference, ground-water flow model was used to simulate steady-state ground-water flow of the shallow aquifer system in and around the Station. The model simulated ground-water flow from the peninsular drainage divide that runs across the Lackey Plain near the southern end of the Station north to King Creek and the York River and south to Skiffes Creek and the James River. The model was calibrated by minimizing the root mean square error between 4 7 measured and corresponding simulated water levels. The calibrated model was used to determine the ground-water budget and general directions of ground-water flow. A particle-tracking routine was used with the calibrated model to estimate groundwater flow paths, flow rates, and traveltimes from selected sites at the Station.

Simulated ground-water flow velocities of the Station-area model were small beneath the interstream areas of the Lackey Plain and Croaker Flat, but increased outward toward the streams and rivers where the hydraulic gradients are larger. If contaminants from the land surface entered the water table at or near the interstream areas of the Station, where hydraulic gradients are smaller, they would migrate more slowly than if they entered closer to the streams or the shores of the rivers where gradients commonly are larger.

The ground-water flow simulations indicate that some ground water leaks downward from the water table to the Yorktown confining unit and, where the confining unit is absent, to the Yorktown-Eastover aquifer. The velocities of advective-driven contaminants would decrease considerably when entering the Yorktown confining unit because the hydraulic conductivity of the confining unit is small compared to that of the aquifers.

Any contaminants that moved with advective ground-water flow near the groundwater divide of the Lackey Plain would move relatively slowly because the hydraulic gradients are small there. The direction in which the contaminants would move, however, would be determined by precisely where the contaminants entered the water table. The model was not designed to accurately simulate ground-water flow paths through local karst features.

Beneath Croaker Flat, ground water flows downward through the Columbia aquifer and the Yorktown confining unit into the Yorktown-Eastover aquifer. Analyses of the movement of simulated particles from two adjacent sites at Croaker Flat indicated that ground-water flow paths were similar at first but diverged and discharged to different tributaries of Indian Field Creek or to the York River. These simulations indicate that complex and possibly divergent flow paths and traveltimes are possible at the Station. Although the Station-area model is not detailed enough to simulate ground-water flow at the scales commonly used to track and remediate contaminants at specific sites, general concepts about possible contaminant migration at the Station can be inferred from the simulations.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Ground-water flow in the shallow aquifer system at the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Virginia
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 2000-4077
DOI 10.3133/wri004077
Year Published 2001
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Richmond, VA
Description iv, 33 p.
Country United States
State Virginia
City Yorktown
Other Geospatial Columbia Aquifer;Cornwallis Cave;Croaker Flat;Lackey Plain;Yorktown-eastover Aquifer
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details