WRIR 95-4269


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Crandall, C.A., Berndt., M.P., 1996, Water Quality of Surficial Aquifers in the Georgia-Florida Coastal Plain: Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4269, 28 p.

ABSTRACT

The National Water Quality Assessment Program of the U.S. Geological Survey established the Georgia-Florida Coastal Plain study unit in 1991. The ground-water study-unit survey was conducted in 1993 to provide a broad overview of water quality in surficial aquifers. Three land resource provinces were included in the Georgia-Florida Coastal Plain study-unit survey: the Central Florida Ridge, the Coastal Flatwoods, and the Southern Coastal Plain. The U.S. Geological Survey sampled 37 wells in surficial aquifers, 18 in the Coastal Flatwoods and 19 in the Southern Coastal Plain. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection sampled 27 wells tapping surficial aquifers in the Central Florida Ridge as part of the background ground-water quality monitoring network from 1985 through 1989. The data were used to characterize water quality in surficial aquifers of the Central Florida Ridge.

Results of the study-unit survey indicated that dissolved solids concentrations in ground water were mostly less than 100 mg/L (milligrams per liter). Higher medians of pH, specific conductance, and concentrations of calcium, bicarbonate, and dissolved solids were measured in samples from the Central Florida Ridge compared to the Southern Coastal Plain and Coastal Flatwoods, probably because of a greater percentage of carbonate minerals in aquifer materials. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency secondary maximum contaminant level for iron of 300 ug/L (micrograms per liter) in drinking water was exceeded in 15 of 45 samples.

Concentrations of nitrate as nitrogen were less than 3.0 mg/L in most samples (74 percent), indicating little or no influence from human activity. Only five samples (9 percent) had concentrations above 10 mg/L, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level for nitrate concentration in drinking water. Significantly lower median concentrations of nitrate were measured in samples from polyvinyl chloride monitoring wells with diameters less than 6 inches than in large diameter, uncased, or iron-cased wells. The median nitrate concentration was 0.05 mg/L in water from monitoring wells, 1.0 mg/L in samples from iron cased wells, and 2.0 mg/L in samples from uncased wells.

Concentrations of volatile organic compounds were mostly less than the detection levels and exceeded 1 ug/L in only four samples. Compounds detected at concentrations greater than 1 ug/L were: tetrachloroethane (8.77 ug/L), toluene (23 ug/L) and chloromethane (21 ug/L). Atrazine, desethyl-atrazine, and metolachlor were the only pesticides detected; concentrations were less than 0.02 ug/L, except for metolachlor (2.5 ug/L). Detection of organic compounds in surficial aquifers may be associated with specific activities or sources near the well.

Concentrations of radon exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed maximum contaminant level of 300 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in 33 samples from wells on the Coastal Flatwoods and the Southern Coastal Plain. Concentrations as high as 13,000 pCi/L were detected in northern Florida. Although uranium concentrations were less than 1 ug/L in all but one sample (1.3 ug/L) from the Southern Coastal Plain, elevated radon concentrations indicate that uranium is present in aquifer material. Uranium is most likely sorbed to iron oxides and clays in subsurface materials. Tritium concentrations indicated that ground water was recharged by precipitation during the past 40 years. Higher concentrations of tritium in ground water were found in the northern part of the study area and may be related to Savannah River Nuclear Facility.