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Data Series 356

Data Series 356

Ground-Water Quality Data in the San Fernando–San Gabriel Study Unit, 2005—Results from the California GAMA Program

Prepared in cooperation with
California State Water Resources Control Board
A product of the California Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program

By Michael Land and Kenneth Belitz


Ground-water quality in the approximately 460 square mile San Fernando-San Gabriel study unit (SFSG) was investigated between May and July 2005 as part of the Priority Basin Assessment Project of the Groundwater Ambient Monitoring and Assessment (GAMA) Program. The GAMA Priority Basin Assessment Project was developed in response to the Groundwater Quality Monitoring Act of 2001 and is being conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

The San Fernando-San Gabriel study was designed to provide a spatially unbiased assessment of raw ground-water quality within SFSG, as well as a statistically consistent basis for comparing water quality throughout California. Samples were collected from 52 wells in Los Angeles County. Thirty-five of the wells were selected using a spatially distributed, randomized grid-based method to provide statistical representation of the study area (grid wells), and seventeen wells were selected to aid in the evaluation of specific water-quality issues or changes in water chemistry along a historic ground-water flow path (understanding wells).

The ground-water samples were analyzed for a large number of synthetic organic constituents [volatile organic compounds (VOCs), pesticides and pesticide degradates], constituents of special interest [perchlorate, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), 1,2,3-trichloropropane (1,2,3-TCP), and 1,4-dioxane], naturally occurring inorganic constituents (nutrients, major and minor ions, and trace elements), radioactive constituents, and microbial indicators. Naturally occurring isotopes (tritium, and carbon-14, and stable isotopes of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon), and dissolved noble gases also were measured to help identify the source and age of the sampled ground water.

Quality-control samples (blanks, replicates, samples for matrix spikes) were collected at approximately one-fifth (11 of 52) of the wells, and the results for these samples were used to evaluate the quality of the data for the ground-water samples. Assessment of the quality-control results showed that the data had very little bias or variability and resulted in censoring of less than 0.7 percent (32 of 4,484 measurements) of the data collected for ground-water samples.

This study did not attempt to evaluate the quality of water delivered to consumers; after withdrawal from the ground, water typically is treated, disinfected, or blended with other waters to maintain acceptable water quality. Regulatory thresholds apply to treated water that is served to the consumer, not to raw ground water. However, to provide some context for the results, concentrations of constituents measured in the raw ground water were compared with health-based thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and thresholds established for aesthetic concerns (secondary maximum contaminant levels, SMCL-CA) by CDPH.

VOCs were detected in more than 90 percent (33 of 35) of grid wells. For all wells sampled for SFSG, nearly all VOC detections were below health-based thresholds, and most were less than one-tenth of the threshold values. Samples from seven wells had at least one detection of PCE, TCE, tetrachloromethane, NDMA, or 1,2,3-TCP at or above a health-based threshold. Pesticides were detected in about 90 percent (31 of 35) grid wells and all detections in samples from SFSG wells were below health-based thresholds.

Major ions, trace elements, and nutrients in samples from 17 SFSG wells were all below health-based thresholds, with the exception of one detection of nitrate that was above the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL-US). With the exception of 14 samples having radon-222 above the proposed MCL-US, radioactive constituents were below health-based thresholds for 16 of the SFSG wells sampled. Total dissolved solids in 6 of the 24 SFSG wells that were sampled had concentrations between the lower and upper non-enforceable thresholds (500 and 1,000 mg/L) set for aesthetic concerns.


Hydrogeologic Setting
Water-Qualitiy Results
References Cited

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, Michael Land, (619) 225-6168.

For more information about USGS activities in California, visit the USGS California Water Science Center home page.

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