Geology and ground water in Door County, Wisconsin, with emphasis on contamination potential in the Silurian dolomite

Water Supply Paper 2047
Prepared in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources



Door County is in northeastern Wisconsin and is an area of 491 square miles. The county forms the main body of the peninsula between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The land surface is an upland ridge controlled by the underlying bedrock. The west edge of the ridge forms an escarpment facing Green Bay. Silurian dolomite is the upper bedrock unit throughout most of the county and is the most important aquifer. This bedrock is exposed in much of the county, particularly north of Sturgeon Bay; elsewhere, it is covered by a generally thin mantle of soil or drift. The bedrock units are divided into two major aquifer systems in Door County; the Silurian dolomite aquifer system and the sandstone aquifer system, consisting of Ordovician and Cambrian bedrock units. These two major systems are separated by the Maquoketa Shale of Ordovician age, a nearly impermeable, generally nonproductive unit. The Silurian dolomite aquifer system is itself divided into the Niagaran aquifer and the underlying Alexandrian aquifer. Water occurs in the Silurian dolomite aquifer system in two types of openings-nearly vertical joints (fractures) and horizontal to slightly dipping bedding-plane joints. Vertical joints are more common in the upper part of the Niagaran aquifer. These yield small amounts of water to wells. Bedding-plane joints transmit most of the water in the lower part of the Niagaran aquifer and in the Alexandrian aquifer. The bedding-plane joints, because they are poorly interconnected, act as semiartesian conduits separated by impermeable rock. Eight water-bearing zones in generally continuous bedding-plane joints have been mapped. The dolomite is recharged from direct precipitation and snowmelt. It discharges water to pumping wells and by natural springs discharge to Lake Michigan and Green Bay and to interior lakes and streams. Wells in the Silurian dolomite aquifer system have adequate yields to meet most needs, except in the southwest corner of the county, where the dolomite is thin or absent. Transmissivity values range from a low of 4.0 feet squared per day in the Niagaran aquifer near Sturgeon Bay to more than 13 000 feet squared per day for the Alexandrian aquifer near Fish Creek. Water from Silurian dolomite is a very hard calcium magnesium bicarbonate type, with objectionable concentrations of iron and nitrate in water from some wells. Sanitary quality, as indicated by tests for total coliform bacteria, has been a chronic problem in certain areas. Concentrations of indicator organisms are greatest during or immediately after rapid ground-water recharge, with concentrations rapidly decreasing after periods of recharge. Wells close to septic systems and in areas underlain by fractured near-surface bedrock have the greatest incidence of contamination. The type and thickness of unconsolidated material has a direct effect on the entry of bacteria into the ground-water system. Bacterial attenuation increases with increasing soil depth and reduction in soil permeability. After bacterial contaminants reach the water table within fractured bedrock, little attenuation occurs, and the contaminants can travel long distances in a short time. Ground water of good sanitary quality but exceeding recommended limits of the U.S. Public Health Service for sulfate and chloride is probably available from the sandstone aquifer by drilling wells 700 to 1300 feet deep. To minimize the possibility of obtaining contaminated ground water, well construction should include properly locating the wells upgradient and as far as practical from contamination sources, setting and pressure grouting well casings to an adequate depth into firm bedrock, and casing the well into the zone of saturation.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geology and ground water in Door County, Wisconsin, with emphasis on contamination potential in the Silurian dolomite
Series title Water Supply Paper
Series number 2047
DOI 10.3133/wsp2047
Year Published 1978
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description Report: v, 38 p.; 5 Plates: 27.00 x 31.37 inches or smaller
Country United States
State Wisconsin
County Door County
Scale 125000
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details