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Circular 1353

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

The Quality of Our Nation’s Waters

Water Quality in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Surficial Aquifer System, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia, 1988–2009

By Judith M. Denver, Scott W. Ator, Jeffrey M. Fischer, Douglas C. Harned, Christopher Schubert, and Zoltan Szabo

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (103 MB)Overview

The surficial aquifer system of the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain is made up of unconfined aquifers that underlie most of the area. This aquifer system is a critical renewable source of drinking water and is the source of most flow to streams and of recharge to underlying confined aquifers. Millions of people rely on the surficial aquifer system for public and domestic water supply, in particular in the densely populated areas of Long Island, New York, and in southern New Jersey, but also in more rural areas. Because the aquifer sediments are permeable and the water table is shallow, the surficial aquifer system is vulnerable to contamination from chemicals that are applied to the land surface and carried into groundwater with infiltrating rainfall and snowfall.

Major Findings

  • The quality of most groundwater produced for public and domestic water supply is suitable for drinking, although contaminants at concentrations greater than human-health benchmarks have been detected in some places
  • Nitrate is one of the most widespread contaminants in groundwater
  • Radium occurs commonly in groundwater as a result of the degradation of uranium and thorium minerals naturally present in aquifer sediments
  • Chemicals in groundwater move slowly and can be detected in the environment for several decades after they enter the surficial aquifer system

Summary Report for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program Principal Aquifers Series, "The Quality of Our Nation's Waters—"

Circular 1360—Water Quality in Principal Aquifers of the United States, 1991–2010

Companion Reports

Circular 1337—Water Quality in the High Plains Aquifer, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming, 1999–2004

Circular 1352—Water Quality in the Glacial Aquifer System, Northern United States, 1993–2009

Circular 1353—Water Quality in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Surficial Aquifer System, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia, 1988–2009

Circular 1354—Water Quality in the Principal Aquifers of the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Valley and Ridge Regions, Eastern United States, 1993–2009

Circular 1355—Water Quality in the Upper Floridan Aquifer and Overlying Surficial Aquifers, Southeastern United States, 1993–2010

Circular 1356—Water Quality in the Mississippi Embayment–Texas Coastal Uplands Aquifer System and Mississippi River Valley Alluvial Aquifer, South-Central United States, 1994–2008

Circular 1357—Water Quality in the Denver Basin Aquifer System, Colorado, 2003–05

Circular 1358—Water Quality in Basin-Fill Aquifers of the Southwestern United States: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, 1993–2009

Circular 1359—Groundwater Quality in the Columbia Plateau and Snake River Plain Basin-Fill and Basaltic-Rock Aquifers and the Hawaiian Volcanic-Rock Aquifers, Washington, Idaho, and Hawaii, 1993–2005

First posted January 21, 2015

For additional information, contact:
Chief, National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program 
U.S. Geological Survey
413 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

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Suggested citation:

Denver, J.M., Ator, S.W., Fischer, J.M., Harned, D.C., Schubert, Christopher, and Szabo, Zoltan, 2014, The quality of our Nation’s waters—Water quality in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain surficial aquifer system, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia, 1988–2009: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1353, 88 p.,

ISSN 1067–084X (print)

ISSN 2330–5703 (online)


Chapter 1: Overview of Major Findings and Implications

Chapter 2: NAWQA Approach to Assessing Water Quality

Chapter 3: Environmental Setting and Hydrogeologic

Chapter 4: Natural Hydrogeologic and Geochemical Processes That Affect Groundwater Quality

Chapter 5: Contaminants of Concern in Drinking Water and in Groundwater Flowing to Streams

Chapter 6: Understanding Where and Why Constituents Occur in Groundwater

Chapter 7: Groundwater as a Source of Contaminants to Streams and Estuaries

References Cited



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