The quality and geochemistry of ground water are significantly affected by the depositional environment of aquifer sediments. Cretaceous sediments in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina have been deposited in fluvial, delta-plain, marginal-marine, and marine environments. Depositional environments of sediments within a single aquifer may grade from nonmarine, fluvial, or upper delta plain near the updip limit of the aquifer to transitional, lower delta plain and to marine toward the coast.
In nonmarine sediments the major source of inorganic carbon in the water is the decomposition of organic material. The major aqueous geochemical processes are the dissolution and alteration of silicate minerals. Silica makes up a major part of the dissolved constituents in water from these sediments.
In transitional and marine sediments the major aqueous geochemical processes are (1) the dissolution of calcium carbonate by hydrolysis and by carbonic acid derived from the decomposition of organic material and (2) the exchange of calcium in solution for sodium on the marine-clay minerals. The clay minerals may also serve as buffers by neutralizing the hydroxyl ion produced by hydrolysis. The effects of incompletely flushed dilute saltwater on water quality increase toward the coast and toward the northeast.