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Scientific-Investigations Report 2012–5018

Hydrologic Conditions, Groundwater Quality, and Analysis of Sinkhole Formation in the Albany Area of Dougherty County, Georgia, 2009

Prepared in cooperation with the Albany Water, Gas, and Light Commission

Debbie Warner Gordon, Jaime A. Painter, and John M. McCranie

ABSTRACT

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The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Albany Water, Gas, and Light Commission has conducted water resources investigations and monitored groundwater conditions and availability in the Albany, Georgia, area since 1977. This report presents an overview of hydrologic conditions, water quality, and groundwater studies in the Albany area of Dougherty County, Georgia, during 2009. Historical data also are presented for comparison with 2009 data.

During 2009, groundwater-level data were collected in 29 wells in the Albany area to monitor water-level trends in the surficial, Upper Floridan, Claiborne, Clayton, and Providence aquifers. Groundwater-level data from 21 of the 29 wells indicated an increasing trend during 2008–09. Five wells show no trend due to lack of data and three wells have decreasing trends. Period-of-record water levels (period of record ranged between 1957–2009 and 2003–2009) declined slightly in 10 wells and increased slightly in 4 wells tapping the Upper Floridan aquifer; declined in 1 well and increased in 2 wells tapping the Claiborne aquifer; declined in 4 wells and increased in 2 wells tapping the Clayton aquifer; and increased in 1 well tapping the Providence aquifer.

Analyses of groundwater samples collected during 2009 from 12 wells in the Upper Floridan aquifer in the vicinity of a well field located southwest of Albany indicate that overall concentrations of nitrate plus nitrite as nitrogen increased slightly from 2008 in 8 wells. A maximum concentration of 12.9 milligrams per liter was found in a groundwater sample from a well located upgradient from the well field. The distinct difference in chemical constituents of water samples collected from the Flint River and samples collected from wells located in the well-field area southwest of Albany indicates that little water exchange occurs between the Upper Floridan aquifer and Flint River where the river flows adjacent to, but downgradient of, the well field. Water-quality data collected during 2008 from two municipal wells located in northern Albany and downgradient from a hazardous waste site indicate low-level concentrations of pesticides in one of the wells; however, no pesticides were detected in samples collected during 2009.

Detailed geologic cross sections were used to create a three-dimensional, hydrogeologic diagram of the well field southwest of Albany in order to examine the occurrence of subsurface features conducive to sinkhole formation. Monitored groundwater-level data were used to assess the possible relations between sinkhole formation, precipitation, and water levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer. Although the water levels in well 12L382 oscillated above and below the top of the aquifer on a regular basis between 2007 and 2009, sinkhole development did not appear to correlate directly with either well-field pumping or water levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer. Specifically, two sinkholes formed in each of the years 2003 and 2005 when water levels were almost 20 feet above the top of the aquifer during most of the year. Water-level and sinkhole-formation data continue to be collected to allow further study and analysis.

First posted February 14, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Georgia Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
3039 Amwiler Rd.
Suite 130
Atlanta, GA 30360-2824
http://ga.water.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Gordon, D.W., Painter, J.A., and McCranie, J.M., 2012, Hydrologic conditions, groundwater quality, and analysis of sink hole formation in the Albany area of Dougherty County, Georgia, 2009: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5018, 60 p.; available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5018/.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Groundwater Pumping

Well- and Stream-Numbering Systems

Methods of Analysis and Sources of Data

Hydrologic Conditions

Precipitation

Stream Stage

Groundwater Levels

Surficial Aquifer

Upper Floridan Aquifer

Claiborne Aquifer

Clayton and Providence Aquifers

Sinkhole Monitoring

Groundwater Quality

Upper Floridan and Surficial Aquifer

Claiborne and Clayton Aquifers

Analysis of Sinkhole Formation

Summary

References Cited

Appendix 1. Groundwater-Level Hydrographs and Statistics for Continuously Monitored Recorder Wells and Wells Measured Periodically for 2009 and Period of Record in the Albany Area of Dougherty County, Georgia

Appendix 2. Regression Statistics

Appendix 3. Water-Quality Data from the Albany Area of Dougherty County, Georgia, November 2009


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