Phosphorus in a ground-water contaminant plume discharging to Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1999

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2002-4306

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The discharge of a plume of sewagecontaminated ground water emanating from the Massachusetts Military Reservation to Ashumet Pond on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has caused concern about excessive loading of nutrients, particularly phosphorus, to the pond. The U.S. Air Force is considering remedial actions to mitigate potentially adverse effects on the ecological characteristics of the pond from continued phosphorus loading. Concentrations as great as 3 milligrams per liter of dissolved phosphorus (as P) are in ground water near the pond's shoreline; concentrations greater than 5 milligrams per liter of phosphorus are in ground water farther upgradient. Temporary drive-point wells were used to collect water samples from 2 feet below the pond bottom to delineate concentration distributions in the pore waters of the pond-bottom sediments. Measurements in the field of specific conductance and colorimetrically determined orthophosphate concentrations provided real-time data to guide the sampling. The contaminant plume discharges to the Fishermans Cove area of Ashumet Pond as evidenced by elevated levels of specific conductance and boron, which are chemically conservative indicators of the sewage-contaminated ground water. Concentrations of nonconservative species, such as dissolved phosphorus, manganese, nitrate, and ammonium, also were elevated above background levels in ground water discharging to the pond, but in spatially complex distributions that reflect their distributions in ground water upgradient of the pond. Phosphorus concentrations exceeded background levels (greater than 0.10 milligram per liter) in the pond-bottom pore water along 875 feet of shoreline. Greatest concentrations (greater than 2 milligrams per liter) occurred within 30 feet of the shore in an area about 225 feet long. Calculations of phosphorus flux in the aquifer upgradient of Ashumet Pond, as determined from water-flux estimates from a steady-state ground-water-flow model and phosphorus concentrations (in 1999) from multilevel samplers about 75 feet upgradient of the pond, indicate that dissolved phosphorus moves towards the pond and discharges to it with the inflowing ground water at a rate as high as about 316 kilograms per year.

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Phosphorus in a ground-water contaminant plume discharging to Ashumet Pond, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1999
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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77 p.