This report summarizes the results of an investigation of water quality and hydrology in the Fort Belvoir, Va., area for the period August 1954 to September 1955. It summarizes and evaluates information about the water resources of this area that are pertinent to the choice of location and operation of an Army nuclear power reactor. The quantity, quality, nature, and use of the local water that might be affected by the location and operation of a reactor in the area were subjects of investigation. Variations in the quality of the water caused by variation in streamflow, tidal effects, and pollution were important facets of the investigation.
During extended periods of low streamflow in the Potomac River (usually in the late summer months), salty water moves upstream from Chesapeake Bay and increases the dissolved solids content of the surface waters adjacent to Fort Belvoir. When the streamflow is low the concentration of dissolved solids in the water near the river bottom exceeds that near the surface.
The waters in Gunston Cove usually contain more dissolved oxygen than those in the Potomac River. During the summer, the content of dissolved oxygen in the cove waters frequently exceeds 100 percent of saturation.
Surface floats that were released on a flood tide in Gunston Cove moved toward the inner portion of the cove in the same direction as the wind and the tide. The maximum average velocity of these floats was 0.65 feet per second. On an ebb tide, many surface floats that were released in Gunston Cove moved toward the inner portion of the cove in the direction of the wind, in opposition to the direction of the tidal movement. Floats released near the mouth of the cove on the same tide, moved with the tide out of the cove through a narrow pass at the end of a submerged sandbar extending from the Fort Belvoir shoreline. The maximum average velocity of the floats in the pass on this ebb tide was 0.85 feet per second. Measurements of subsurface flow direction indicate that the water in the deeper part of Gunston Cove tended to move toward Accotink Bay on the flood tide and out of the cove into the Potomac River on the ebb tide. The water 150-500 feet offshore from the reactor site tended to move toward Accotink Bay on the flood tide and toward Pohick Bay on the ebb tide, whereas waters 30 feet from the Fort Belvoir shoreline tended to move counterclockwise during part of the time. In Gunston Cove the maximum measured flood velocity was 0.48 feet-per second, and the maximum ebb velocity was 0.71 per second.
During periods of low streamflow, pollutants that enter the Potomac River at Fort Belvoir may move as much as 5.5 miles upstream on a flood tide and as much as 5 miles downstream on an ebb tide. At higher flow rates movement of pollutants is less upstream and greater downstream. The time required to flush the 10-mile reach of the Potomac River adjacent to Fort Belvoir varies from a day or two at high-flow rates to several weeks at low-flow rates.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water quality and hydrology in the Fort Belvoir area, Virginia, 1954-55