USGS

Geohydrology and Water Quality of Stratified-Drift Aquifers in the Lower Merrimack and Coastal River Basins, Southeastern New Hampshire

U.S. Geological Survey, WRIR 91-4025

by Peter J . Stekl, and Sarah M. Flanagan

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Abstract

Communities in the lower Merrimack River basin and coastal river basins of southeastern New Hampshire are experiencing increased demands for water because of a rapid increase in population. The population in 1987 was 225,495 and is expected to increase by 30 percent during the next decade. As of 1987, five towns used the stratified-drift aquifers for municipal supply and withdrew an estimated 6 million gallons per day. Four towns used the bedrock aquifer for municipal supply and withdrew an average of 1 .6 million gallons per day.

Stratified-drift deposits cover 78 of the 327 square miles of the study area. These deposits are generally less than 10 square miles in areal extent, and their saturated thickness ranges front less than 20 feet to as much as 100 feet . Transinissivity exceeds 4,000 square feet per day in several locations. Stratified-drift aquifers in the eastern part are predominantly small ice-contact deposits surrounded by marine sediments or till of low hydraulic conductivity. Stratified-drift aquifers in the western part consist of ice-contact and proglacial deposits that are large in areal extent and are commonly in contact with surface-water bodies.

Five stratified-drift aquifers, in the towns of Derry, Windham, Kingston, North Hampton, and Greenland, have the greatest potential to supply additional amounts of water. Potential yields and contributing areas of hypothetical supply wells were estimated for an aquifer in Windham near Cobbetts Pond and for an aquifer in Kingston along the Powwow River by use of a method analogous to superposition in conjunction with a numerical ground-waterflow model. The potential yield is estimated to be 0 .6 million gallons per day for the Windham-Cobbetts Pond aquifer and 4 .0 million gallons per day for the Kingston-Powwow River aquifer. Contributing recharge area for supply wells is estimated to be 1.6 square miles in the Windham-Cobbetts Pond aquifer and 4.9 square miles in the Kingston-Powwow River aquifer.

Analyses of water samples from 30 wells indicate that the water quality in the basins studied is generally suitable for drinking and other domestic purposes. Concentrations of iron and manganese exceeded the U.S . Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) and the New Hampshire Water Supply Engineering Bureau's secondary maximum contaminant levels for drinking water in 20 samples. With one exception, concentrations of volatile organic compounds at all wells sampled met New Hampshire Water Supply and Engineering Bureau's drinking-water standards. At one well, trichloroethylene was detected at a concentration of 5.7 micrograms per liter.

Ground-water contamination has been detected at several hazardous-waste sites in the study area. Currently, 5 sites are on the USEPA's National Priority List of superfund sites, 10 sites are Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 sites, and 1 site is a Department of Defense hazardous-waste site of stratigraphic layers is a product of a material's density and the velocity at which sound travels through that material . The reflected signals return to the hydrophones at the water surface and are then filtered, amplified, and displayed graphically on the chart recorder to allow interpretation of aquifer stratigraphy and bedrock depths. Lithologic data from nearby wells and test holes were used as control points to check the interpretation of the reflection profiles.

Test drilling was done at 66 locations (pls . 1-3) to determine sediment grain size, stratigraphy, depth to water table, depth to bedrock, and ground water quality . A 6-inch-diameter, hollow-stem auger was used for test drilling . Split-spoon samples of subsurface materials collected at specific depths were used to evaluate the grain-size characteristics and identify the stratigraphic sequence of materials comprising the aquifers . Thirty-eight test holes cased with a 2-inch-diameter polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) pipe and slotted screens were used to make ground-water-level measurements and collect ground-water-quality samples.

Surface-water-discharge measurements were made at 16 sites during low flow when the surface water is primarily ground-water discharge . These low-flow measurements indicate quantities of ground water potentially available from aquifers.

Hydraulic conductivities of aquifer materials were estimated from grain-size-distribution data from 61 samples of stratified drift . Transmissivity was estimated from well logs by assigning hydraulic conductivity to specific well-log intervals, multiplying by the saturated thickness of the interval, and summing the results . Additional transmissivity values were obtained from an analysis of specific capacity and aquifer-test data.

Long-term aquifer yields and contributing areas to hypothetical supply wells were estimated by application of a method that is analogous to super position and incorporates a ground-water-flow model developed by McDonald and Harbaugh (1988) . This method was applied to two aquifers judged to have the best potential for providing additional ground-water supplies.

Samples of ground water from 26 test wells and 4 municipal wells were collected in March and August 1987 for analysis of common inorganic, organic, and volatile organic constituents. Methods for collecting and analyzing the samples are described by Fishman and Freidman (1989) . The water-quality results from the well samples were used to characterize background water quality in the stratified-drift aquifers.

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