Apparent chlorofluorocarbon age of ground water of the shallow aquifer system, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Yorktown, Virginia

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2001-4179

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Apparent ages of ground water are useful in the analysis of various components of flow systems, and results of this analysis can be incorporated into investigations of potential pathways of contaminant transport. This report presents the results of a study in 1997 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Base Civil Engineer, Environmental Directorate, to describe the apparent age of ground water of the shallow aquifer system at the Station. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), tritium (3H), dissolved gases, stable isotopes, and water-quality field properties were measured in samples from 14 wells and 16 springs on the Station in March 1997. Nitrogen-argon recharge temperatures range from 5.9?C to 17.3?C with a median temperature of 10.9?C, which indicates that ground-water recharge predominantly occurs in the cold months of the year. Concentrations of excess air vary depending upon geohydrologic setting (recharge and discharge areas). Apparent ground-water ages using a CFC-based dating technique range from 1 to 48 years with a median age of 10 years. The oldest apparent CFC ages occur in the upper parts of the Yorktown-Eastover aquifer, whereas the youngest apparent ages occur in the Columbia aquifer and the upper parts of the discharge area setting, especially springs. The vertical distribution of apparent CFC ages indicates that groundwater movement between aquifers is somewhat retarded by the leaky confining units, but the elapsed time is relatively short (generally less than 35 years), as evidenced by the presence of CFCs at depth. The identification of binary mixtures by CFC-based dating indicates that convergence of flow lines occurs not only at the actual point of discharge, but also in the subsurface. The CFC-based recharge dates are consistent with expected 3H concentrations measured in the water samples from the Station. The concentration of 3H in ground water ranges from below the USGS laboratory minimum reporting limit of 0.3 to 15.9 tritium units (TU) with a median value of 10.8 TU. Water-quality field properties are highly variable for ground water with apparent CFC ages less than 15 years because of geochemical processes within local flow systems. Ground water with apparent CFC ages greater than 15 years represents more stable conditions in subregional flow systems. The range of apparent CFC ages is slightly greater than the ranges in time of travel of ground water calculated for shallow wells (less than 60- feet deep) from flow-path analysis. Calculated travel times to springs can be up to two orders of magnitude greater than the CFC-based apparent ages. Reasonable assumptions of values for hydraulic parameters can result in substantial overestimates for time of travel to springs. Recharge rates computed from apparent CFC ages range from 0.29 to 0.89 feet per year (ft/ yr) with an average value of 0.54 ft/yr. The analysis of apparent CFC ages in conjunction with geohydrologic data indicates that young water (less than 50 years) is present at depth (nearly 120 feet) and that both local and subregional flow systems occur in the shallow aquifer system at the Station. The addition of the dimension of time to the three-dimensional framework of Brockman and others (1997) will benefit current (2001) and future remediation activities by providing estimates of advective transport rates and how these rates vary depending upon geohydrologic setting and position within the ground-water-flow system. Estimated ground-water apparent ages and recharge rates can be used as calibration criteria in simulations of ground-water flow on the Station to refine and constrain future ground-water-flow models of the shallow aquifer system.

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Apparent chlorofluorocarbon age of ground water of the shallow aquifer system, Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Yorktown, Virginia
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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v, 51 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.