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Ground-Water Quality in the Eastern Part of the Silurian-Devonian and Upper Carbonate Aquifers in the Eastern Iowa Basins, Iowa and Minnesota, 1996

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4224

By Mark E. Savoca, Eric M. Sadorf, and Kymm K. Akers

U.S. Geological Survey, Iowa City, IA

Abstract

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Ground-water samples were collected from 33 domestic wells to assess the water quality of the eastern part of the Silurian-Devonian and Upper Carbonate aquifers in the Eastern Iowa Basins National Water-Quality Assessment Program study unit. Samples were collected during June and July 1996 and analyzed for major ions, nutrients, pesticides and pesticide metabolites, volatile organic compounds, tritium, radon222, and environmental isotopes.

Calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate were the dominant ions in most samples and were likely derived from the solution of carbonate minerals (calcite and dolomite) present in the aquifer materials. The dominance of sulfate in samples from several wells suggests the dissolution of evaporite minerals. Ammonia and orthophosphorus were the most commonly detected nutrients. Nitrate was detected in about half of the samples and exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level (10 milligrams per liter) in 6 percent of samples. Atrazine and metolachlor were the only pesticides detected and were present in 18 percent and 12 percent of samples, respectively. Alachlor ethanesulfonic acid and deethylatrazine were the most commonly detected pesticide metabolites and were present in 16 percent and 9 percent of samples, respectively. Radon-222 was detected in all samples, and 47 percent had concentrations in excess of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency previously proposed maximum contaminant level (300 picocuries per liter). Radon-222 concentrations were significantly higher in samples from wells that produced recently recharged water. This relation suggests that uranium-bearing glacial deposits (Schumann, 1993) may be a source of radon-222 in the underlying aquifers.

The presence of regional confining units and thick overlying Quaternary-age deposits have an effect on water quality in the SilurianDevonian and Upper Carbonate aquifers in the study area. Tritium-based ground-water ages were significantly older, and dissolved-solids concentrations were significantly higher in relatively well protected areas (where the aquifers are overlain by a bedrock confining unit or more than 100 feet of Quaternary-age deposits). Ammonia concentrations were significantly higher in relatively well protected areas and in samples from wells that produced older water. Higher ammonia concentrations also were observed in ground water with dissolved-oxygen concentrations of 0.5 milligram per liter or less, allowing for the anaerobic reduction of nitrate to ammonia. Nitrate concentrations were significantly higher in relatively poorly protected areas (where the aquifers are not overlain by a bedrock confining unit or are overlain by less than 100 feet of Quaternaryage deposits) and in samples from wells that produced recently recharged water. Pesticide and metabolite concentrations were significantly higher in samples from wells that produced recently recharged water. Atrazine, metolachlor, and deethylatrazine were not detected in any samples from relatively well protected areas of the aquifers.

 

Contents

Abstract.

Introduction.

Purpose and Scope

Acknowledgements

Description of Study Unit

 

Study Design and Methods 

Well Selection

Sample Collection

Water-Quality Analysis

Statistical Analysis

Ground-water Quality

Analytical Results

Comparison of Data with other Studies

Factors Affecting Ground-Water Quality

Summary

References.

Appendix.


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