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Water-quality assessment of part of the Upper Mississippi River Basin, Minnesota and Wisconsin - Ground-water quality in the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer 1996

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4248

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Abstract

The Prairie du Chien-Jordan (PDCJ) aquifer (Prairie du Chien-Trempealeau aquifer in Wisconsin), composed of dolomite and sandstone of Cambrian to Ordovician age, is the principal bedrock aquifer in the Upper Mississippi River study unit of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. The aquifer supplies approximately 75 percent of the ground water withdrawn in the area. In certain areas, the aquifer is overlain by bedrock or glacial deposits having low hydraulic conductivity (termed "confined portion" of the aquifer in this report). In other areas the aquifer is overlain by glacial sand and gravel deposits having greater hydraulic conductivity (termed "unconfined portion" of the aquifer in this report). Differences in the hydrogeologic characteristics of these overlying units have potential to affect the downward movement of water and of contaminants into the aquifer from the land surface.

Ground-water samples were collected from 50 domestic wells completed in this aquifer in July, August, and September of 1996 as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's National WaterQuality Assessment Program. The purpose of this report is to describe the chemical characteristics of water in the PDCJ aquifer and to summarize the differences in water quality in confined and unconfined portions of the aquifer. Twenty-five wells were sampled in each portion of the aquifer. Water samples from the wells were measured for physical parameters and analyzed for concentrations of major ions, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, trace metals, radon, tritium, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds.

Differences in anthropogenic and naturally occurring materials in water between confined and unconfined portions of the PDCJ aquifer are small and frequently the differences are not statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level. Dissolved oxygen concentrations were slightly less and specific conductances and alkalinities were slightly greater in water in the confined portion of the aquifer. Only the differences in specific conductance and alkalinity, however, were statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (two sample t-test). Concentrations of most major ions were generally greater in water from the confined portion of the aquifer.

Nitrate (nitrite plus nitrate as N) and phosphorus were generally greater in the unconfined portion of the PDCJ aquifer although the differences were not statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (nonparametric Mann-Whitney test). In the confined portion of the aquifer no samples exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 10 milligrams per liter for nitrate. In the unconfined portion of the aquifer nitrate in two samples exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 10 milligrams per liter. Phosphorus concentrations were generally about an order of magnitude less than nitrate concentrations.

Iron and manganese concentrations commonly exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and were generally greater in the confined portion of the PDCJ aquifer, although the differences were not statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (nonparametric Mann-Whitney test). Radon concentrations were greater in the confined portion of the aquifer than in the unconfined portion, although the difference was not statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (two sample t-test), with medians of 500 and 340 picoCuries per liter, respectively. Sixty-six percent of the radon concentrations were greater than the suspended maximum contaminant level of 300 picoCuries per liter. Tritium concentrations indicate that water in the unconfined portion of the PDCJ aquifer may have been recharged more recently than water in the confined portion of the aquifer, although differences in tritium concentrations between confined and unconfined portions of the aquifer were not statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (nonparametric MannWhitney test). Atrazine and its metabolite, deethylatrazine, were the most frequently detected pesticide compounds in water samples from the PDCJ aquifer. Volatile organic compounds were detected in 41 of the 50 water samples, but none of the concentrations exceeded 1 microgram per liter. Concentrations of volatile organic compounds were slightly greater in the unconfined portion, although the differences in detection rates were not statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level (nonparametric Mann-Whitney test). Carbon disulfide and methyl chloride were the most frequently detected volatile organic compounds. Water in the unconfined portion of the PDCJ aquifer in Minnesota and Wisconsin appears to be affected to a greater degree by anthropogenic activities than water in the confined portion of the aquifer.

Water in the confined portion has a longer residence time and greater concentrations of dissolution products of minerals. In general, however, differences in anthropogenic and naturally occurring materials among confined and unconfined portions of the aquifer are small and frequently not significantly different.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Water-quality assessment of part of the Upper Mississippi River Basin, Minnesota and Wisconsin - Ground-water quality in the Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer 1996
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
98-4248
Year Published:
1998
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Mounds View, MN
Contributing office(s):
Minnesota Water Science Center
Description:
vii, 45 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Minnesota, Wisconsin
Other Geospatial:
Prairie du Chien-Jordan aquifer
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N