Georgia Water Science Center

USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4153

Hydrogeology and water quality of the Upper Three Runs aquifer in the vicinity of the Gibson Road Landfill, Fort Gordon, Georgia, June–November 1999

This report is available online in pdf format (3 MB): USGS WRIR 02-4153 (Opens the PDF file in a new window. )

Sherlyn Priest and Kristen Bukowski McSwain

U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4153, 22 pages (Published 2002)


Fort Gordon military installation, a U.S. Department of the Army facility, is located in east-central Georgia southwest of Augusta. The military base operates a three-phase unlined landfill—Gibson Road Landfill— to store a variety of wastes. Phases I and II stored only household wastes, and these phases were discontinued during the mid–1990s. Fort Gordon currently (1999) operates Phase III of the landfill that stores only construction and demolition debris. Water-quality monitoring detected selected trace elements and organic compounds exceeding the maximum contaminant levels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Primary Drinking Water Standards. The selected trace elements and organic compounds detected showed that contamination of ground water had occurred in the vicinity of the landfill. In 1999, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Environmental and Natural Resources Management Office of the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, Georgia, began an assessment of the hydrogeology and water quality in shallow ground water in the vicinity of the Gibson Road Landfill to delineate the extent of a ground-water contamination plume in the vicinity of the landfill.

Hydrogeologic units in the Augusta area include the Upper Three Runs aquifer, the Gordon aquifer, the Millers Pond aquifer, and the Dublin aquifer. Only the shallowest aquifer, Upper Three Runs, was penetrated during this study. The Upper Three Runs aquifer is composed of sediments of the Barnwell Group. Mostly, these sediments are highly permeable fine to medium, well-sorted sand with lenses of clay.

Ground-water flow is from northwest to southeast and generally was unaffected by seasonal variation during the period of study (June–November 1999). Water-table altitudes in the landfill area for the study period ranged from 394 feet (ft) to 445 ft above sea level. Ground-water samples analyzed for organic compounds and selected trace elements by a U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) approved statistical test revealed that increases in contaminant concentrations above the detection limits had occurred during March and September 1999 in five wells—one of which is located upgradient. These organic compounds, respective increases in concentration, and the wells in which they were detected are: methylene chloride—wells 28AA29 (24 parts per billion [ppb] and 46 ppb), 28AA30 (86 ppb and 130 ppb), and 28AA31 (240 ppb and 140 ppb); 1,1-dichloroethene—well 28AA31 (10 ppb and 5.7 ppb); 1,1-dichloroethane— wells 28AA30 (81 ppb and 140 ppb) and 28AA31 (200 ppb and 130 ppb); and 1,1,1-trichloroethane—well 28AA31 (61 ppb and 37 ppb). Although in some wells the concentration decreased from March to September, the median concentrations were still higher in certain groups. Trace element compounds, their respective increases in concentration, and the wells in which they were detected are: chromium—well 28AA30 (1,190 ppb), vanadium—well 28AA30 (104 ppb); barium—wells 28AA27 (42.2 ppb) and 28AA32 (140 ppb), and beryllium—well 28AA30 (6.3 ppb). These increases occurred in September, with the exception of chromium in well 28AA30, which occurred in March. Although a statistical test indicated increases in contaminant concentrations had occurred, water from wells 28AA27, 28AA30, 28AA31, and 28AA32 had a decrease in contaminant concentrations from February 1998 to September 1999.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Primary Drinking Water Regulations Maximum Contaminant Levels (PMCLs), formerly (MCLs) were exceeded in water from four wells for organic compounds and in five wells by selected trace elements during the February 1998, March 1999, and September 1999 sampling periods. The concentrations for the following organic compounds and the associated wells are: methylene chloride (PMCL is 5 ppb)—wells 28AA27 (February, 37 ppb; March, 24 ppb; and September, 9.6 ppb), 28AA29 (February, 20 ppb; March, 24 ppb; and September, 46 ppb), 28AA30 (February, 50 ppb; March, 86 ppb; and September, 130 ppb), and 28AA31 (February, 330 ppb; March 240 ppb; and September, 140 ppb); vinyl chloride (PMCL is 2 ppb)—well 28AA29 (March, 3.6 ppb; and September, 4.4 ppb); 1,1-dichloroethene (PMCL is 7 ppb)—wells 28AA30 (March 10 ppb; and September, 17 ppb) and 28AA31 (February, 13 ppb; and March, 10 ppb); and 1,1,2-trichloroethane (PMCL is 5 ppb)—well 28AA30 (March, 33 ppb). Contaminant concentrations decreased in well 28AA31 from March to September 1999; however, concentrations still exceeded the PMCL. The concentrations for the following selected trace elements exceeding PMCL and the associated wells during the sampling periods February 1998, March 1999, and September 1999 are: mercury (PMCL is 2 ppb)—well 28AA24 (September, 2.82 ppb), well 28AA25 (February, 3.1 ppb; March, 2.11 ppb; and September, 2.28 ppb), and well 28AA30 (September, 2.82 ppb); arsenic (PMCL is 50 ppb)—well 28AA30 (February, 90 ppb; and September, 114 ppb); thallium (PMCL is 2 ppb)—wells 28AA27 (March, 2.08 ppb) and 28AA29 (February, 2.56); barium (PMCL is 2,000 ppb)—well 28AA30 (March, 4,490 ppb); chromium (PMCL is 30 ppb)—well 28AA30 (February, 630 ppb; and March, 1,190 ppb); and beryllium (PMCL is 4 ppb)—well 28AA30 (September, 6.3 ppb). Water from seven wells, three of which are upgradient of the landfill, contained organic compounds and/or selected trace elements exceeding PMCLs during the period February 1998 to September 1999 according to private consultants. Contaminants present in upgradient wells most likely were caused by chemical dispersion, leachate migration, incorrectly defined landfill area, or natural ground-water flow beneath the landfill.




Purpose and scope

Description of Study Area

Methods of Investigation

Previous Investigations

Well-Naming System



Geologic Setting

Irwinton Sand Member of the Dry Branch Formation

Tobacco Road Sand


Upper Three Runs Aquifer


Contaminant Concentration

Physical Processes Affecting Contaminant Movement





This report is available online in pdf format (3 MB): USGS WRIR 02-4153 (Opens the PDF file in a new window. )
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