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Publications— Data Series

Selected Ground-Water-Quality Data in Pennsylvania—1979-2006

U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 314

Prepared in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

By Dennis J. Low, Douglas C. Chichester, and Linda F. Zarr

View the report in Portable Document Format (PDF) DS 314 (5.02 MB)

Download the Appendix (36.9 MB zipped)


This study, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), provides a compilation of ground-water-quality data for a 28-year period (January 1, 1979, through December 31, 2006) based on water samples from wells and springs. The data are from 14 source agencies or programs—Borough of Carroll Valley, Chester County Health Department, Montgomery County Health Department, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection 2002 Pennsylvania Water-Quality Assessment, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency Act 537 Sewage Facilities Program, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection-Ambient and Fixed Station Network, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection–North-Central Region, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection–South-Central Region, Pennsylvania Drinking Water Information System, Pennsylvania Topographic and Geologic Survey, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The ground-water-quality data from the different source agencies or programs varied in type and number of analyses; however, the analyses are represented by 11 major analyte groups: antibiotics, major ions, microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms), minor ions (including trace elements), nutrients (predominantly nitrate and nitrite as nitrogen), pesticides, pharmaceuticals, radiochemicals (predominantly radon or radium), volatiles (volatile organic compounds), wastewater compounds, and water characteristics (field measurements, predominantly field pH, field specific conductance, and hardness). For the USGS and the PADEP–North-Central Region, the pesticide analyte group was broken down into fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides.

Summary maps show the areal distribution of wells and springs with ground-water-quality data statewide by source agency or program. Summary data tables by source agency or program provide information on the number of wells and springs and samples collected for each of the 35 watersheds and analyte groups.

The number of wells and springs sampled for ground-water-quality data varies considerably across Pennsylvania. Of the 24,772 wells and springs sampled, the greatest concentration of wells and springs is in the southeast (Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties) and in the northwest (Erie County). The number of wells and springs sampled is relatively sparse in north-central (Cameron, Elk, Forest, McKean, Potter, and Warren Counties) Pennsylvania. Little to no data are available for approximately one-fourth of the state. Nutrients and water characteristics were the most frequently sampled major analyte groups—43,025 and 30,583 samples, respectively. Minor ions and major ions were the next most frequently sampled major analyte groups–26,972 and 13,115 samples, respectively. For the remaining 10 major analyte groups, the number of samples collected ranged from a low of 24 samples (antibiotic compounds) to a high of approximately 4,674 samples (microorganisms).

The number of samples that exceeded a maximum contaminant level (MCL) or secondary maximum contaminant level (SMCL) by major analyte group also varied. Of the 4,674 samples in the microorganism analyte group, 50.2 percent had water that exceeded an MCL. Of the 4,528 samples collected and analyzed for volatile organic compounds, 23.5 percent exceeded an MCL. Other major analyte groups that frequently exceeded MCLs or SMCLs included major ions (18,343 samples and a 27.7 percent exceedence), minor ions (26,972 samples, 44.7 percent exceedence), pesticides (4,868 samples, 0.7 percent exceedence), water characteristics (30,583 samples, 19.3 percent exceedence), and radiochemicals (1,866 samples, 9.6 percent exceedence). Samples collected and analyzed for antibiotics (24 samples), fungicides (1,273 samples), herbicides (1,470 samples), insecticides (1,424 samples), nutrients (43,025 samples), pharmaceuticals (28 samples), and wastewater compounds (328 samples) had the lowest exceedences of 0.0, 2.4, 1.2, <1.0, 8.3, 0.0, and <1.0 percent, respectively.

Table of Contents

Data-compilation Methods
     Data Sources
     Categories of Analytes
     Formats, Naming Conventions, and Abbreviations Used in Data Files
Maps and Tables Summarizing the Ground-Water-Quality Data
     Statewide Summary Map
     Summary Tables by Source Agency
Selected References
Appendix—Files of Comments, Data, and Map Images by Source

Suggested citation:
Low, D.J., Chichester, D.C., and Zarr, L.F., 2008, Selected ground-water-quality data in Pennsylvania—1979-2006: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 314, 22 p.

If you have Adobe® Acrobat® or Adobe® Acrobat®Reader® installed on your computer, you may view and print the PDF version of this report. Acrobat Reader, is a free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

View the report in Portable Document Format (PDF) DS 314 (5.02 MB)

Download the Appendix (36.9 MB zipped)

For more information about USGS activities in Pennsylvania contact:
USGS Pennsylvania Water Science Center
215 Limekiln Road
New Cumberland, Pennsylvania 17070
Telephone: (717) 730-6960
Fax: (717) 730-6997
or access the USGS Water Resources of Pennsylvania home page at:

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