The 250-square-mile area of southwest Sarasota and west Charlotte Counties is underlain by a complex hydrogeologic system having diverse ground-water quality. The surficial and intermediate aquifer systems and the Upper Floridan aquifer of the Floridan aquifer system contain six separate aquifers, or permeable zones, and have a total thickness of about 2,000 feet. Water in the clastic surficial aquifer system is potable and is tapped by hundreds of shallow, low-yielding supply wells. Water in the mixed clastic and carbonate intermediate aquifer system is potable in the upper part, but in the lower part, because of increasing salinity, it is used primarily for reverse-osmosis desalinization feed water and irrigation. Within the Upper Floridan aquifer, limestone and dolomite of the Suwannee permeable zone are tapped by irrigation and reverse-osmosis supply wells. The underlying, less permeable limestone of the Suwannee-Ocala semiconfining unit generally encompasses the transition zone between freshwater and very saline water. Interbedded limestone and dolomite of the Ocala-Avon Park moderately permeable zone and Avon Park highly permeable zone compose the deep, very saline injection zone.
Potential ground-water contamination problems include flooding by storm tides, upward movement of saline water toward pumping centers by natural and induced leakage or through improperly constructed and abandoned wells, and lateral and vertical movement of treated sewage and reverse-osmosis wastewater injected into deep zones. Effects of flooding are evident in coastal areas where vertical layering of fresh and saline waters is observed. Approximately 100 uncontrolled flowing artesian wells that have interaquifer flow rates as high as 350 gallons per minute have been located and scheduled for plugging by the Southwest Florida Water Management District--in an attempt to improve ground-water quality of the shallow aquifers. Because each aquifer or permeable zone has unique head and water-quality characteristics, construction of single-zone wells would eliminate cross-contamination and borehole interflow. Such a program, when combined with the plugging of shallow-cased wells having long open-hole intervals connecting multiple zones, would safeguard ground-water resources in the study area.
The study area encompasses seven wastewater injection sites that have a projected capacity for injecting 29 million gallons per day into the zone 1,100 to 2,050 feet below land surface. There are six additional sites within 20 miles. The first well began injecting reverse-osmosis wastewater in 1984, and since then, other wells have been drilled and permitted for injection of treated sewage. A numerical model was used to evaluate injection-well design and potential for movement of injected wastewater within the hydrogeologic framework. The numerical model was used to simulate injection through a representative well at a rate of 1 million gallons per day for 10 years. In this simulation, a convection cell developed around the injection well with the buoyant fresh injectant rising to form a lens within the injection zone below the lower Suwannee-Ocala semiconfining unit. Around an ideal, fully penetrating well cased 50 feet into the injection zone and open from a depth of 1,150 feet to 2,050 feet, simulations show that the injectant moves upward to a depth of 940 feet, forms a lens about 600 feet thick, and spreads radially outward to a distance of about 2,300 feet after 10 years. Comparison simulations of injection through wells having open depth intervals of 1,150 to 1,400 feet and 1,450 to 2,050 feet demonstrate that such changes in well construction have little effect on the areal spread of the injectant lens or the rate of upward movement. Simulations also indicate that reverse-osmosis wastewater injected beneath a supply well field, where water levels above the semiconfining unit are lowered 20 feet by pumping, would move upward after 10 years to a de