Geology, hydrogeology, and potential of intrinsic bioremediation at the National Park Service Dockside II site and adjacent areas, Charleston, South Carolina, 1993-94

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4170

, , , and



A long history of industrial and commercial use of the National Park Service property and adjacent properties located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, has caused extensive contamination of the shallow subsurface soils and water-table aquifer. The National Park Service property is located adjacent to a former manufactured-gas plant site, which is the major source of the contamination. Contamination of this shallow water-table aquifer is of concern because shallow ground water discharges to the Cooper River and contains contaminants, which may affect adjacent wildlife or human populations. The geology of the National Park Service property above the Ashley Formation of the Cooper Group consists of two Quaternary lithostratigraphic marine units, the Wando Formation and Holocene deposits, overlain by artificial fill. The Wando Formation overlies the Ashley Formation, a sandy calcareous clay, and consists of soft, organic clay overlain by gray sand. The Holocene deposits are composed of clayey to silty sand and soft organic-rich clay. The artificial fill, which was placed at the site to create dry land where salt marsh existed previously, is composed of sand, silt, and various scrap materials. The shallow hydrogeology of the National Park Service property overlying the Ashley Formation can be subdivided into two sandy aquifers separated by a leaky, black, organic-rich clay. The unconfined upper surficial aquifer is primarily artificial fill. The lower surficial aquifer consists of the Wando sand unit and is confined by the leaky organic-rich clay. Aquifer tests performed on the wells screened in these aquifers resulted in hydraulic conductivities from 0.1 to 10 feet per day for the upper surficial aquifer, and 16 feet per day for the lower surficial aquifer. Vertical hydraulic gradients at the site are typically low. A downward gradient from the upper surficial aquifer to the lower surficial aquifer occurs throughout most of the year. A brick-lined storm-water-drainage archway located in the study area is a conduit for the overflow of seawater into the surficial aquifer during exceptionally high tides. The efficiency of intrinsic bioremediation to reduce contaminant migration in the upper surficial aquifer at the National Park Service site was assessed to determine if, and at what concentrations, contaminants are being transported to the Cooper River. This assessment required incorporating hydrologic, geochemical, microbiologic, and demographic information into a predictive solute-transport model to determine rates of contaminant transport to the Cooper River. The transport of toluene and naphthalene was modeled as a surrogate for the transport of aromatic and other hydrocarbon compounds at the study area. Laboratory estimates of the adsorption coefficients for sediments of the upper surficial aquifer suggest preferential adsorption of naphthalene over toluene. The adsorption coefficient of naphthalene is at least two orders of magnitude greater than that determined for toluene. Laboratory microbial-biodegradation experiments indicate that microorganisms present in the shallow aquifer have the potential to degrade toluene under anaerobic and aerobic conditions, and naphthalene primarily under aerobic conditions. Rates of microbial biodegradation are similar for both compounds under aerobic conditions. Flow-model calibration to the January 1994 water-table surface of the upper surficial aquifer was achieved by specifying appropriate hydrogeologic boundary conditions and using hydraulic conductivity values determined in the field. The brick-lined storm-water drainage archway located in the study area was modeled to account for ground-water discharge through this drain. An exploratory modeling approach was used to evaluate the range of possible solutions that approximate the transport of contaminants to the observed distributions. Approximate toluene solute-transport conditions for January 1994 were estimated using velocity dist

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geology, hydrogeology, and potential of intrinsic bioremediation at the National Park Service Dockside II site and adjacent areas, Charleston, South Carolina, 1993-94
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Contributing office(s):
South Atlantic Water Science Center
viii, 69 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.
United States
South Carolina