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In cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Ground-Water-Quality Data in Pennsylvania--A Compilation of Computerized [Electronic] Databases, 1979-2004

U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 150

By Dennis J. Low and Douglas C. Chichester

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

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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 25-year period (January 1, 1979, through August 11, 2004) based on water samples from wells. The data are from eight source agenciesóBorough of Carroll Valley, Chester County Health Department, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection-Ambient and Fixed Station Network, Montgomery County Health Department, Pennsylvania Drinking Water Information System, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The ground-water-quality data from the different source agencies varied in type and number of analyses; however, the analyses are represented by 12 major analyte groups:biological (bacteria and viruses), fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, major ions, minor ions (including trace elements), nutrients (dominantly nitrate and nitrite as nitrogen), pesticides, radiochemicals (dominantly radon or radium), volatile organic compounds, wastewater compounds, and water characteristics (dominantly field pH, field specific conductance, and hardness).

A summary map shows the areal distribution of wells with ground-water-quality data statewide and by major watersheds and source agency. Maps of 35 watersheds within Pennsylvania are used to display the areal distribution of water-quality information. Additional maps emphasize the areal distribution with respect to 13 major geolithologic units in Pennsylvania and concentration ranges of nitrate (as nitrogen). Summary data tables by source agency provide information on the number of wells and samples collected for each of the 35 watersheds and analyte groups.

The number of wells sampled for ground-water-quality data varies considerably across Pennsylvania. Of the 8,012 wells sampled, the greatest concentration of wells are in the southeast (Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties), in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, and in the northwest (Erie County). The number of wells sampled is relatively sparse in south-central (Adams, Cambria, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties), central (Centre, Indiana, and Snyder Counties), and north-central (Bradford, Potter, and Tioga Counties) Pennsylvania. Little to no data are available for approximately one-third of the state. Water characteristics and nutrients were the most frequently sampled major analyte groups; approximately 21,000 samples were collected for each group. Major and minor ions were the next most-frequently sampled major analyte groups; approximately 17,000 and 12,000 samples were collected, respectively. For the remaining eight major analyte groups, the number of samples collected ranged from a low of 307 samples (wastewater compounds) to a high of approximately 3,000 samples (biological).

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 2,988 samples in the biological analyte group, 53 percent had water that exceeded an MCL. Almost 2,500 samples were collected and analyzed for volatile organic compounds; 14 percent exceeded an MCL. Other major analyte groups that frequently exceeded MCLs or SMCLs included major ions (17,465 samples and a 33.9 percent exceedence), minor ions (11,905 samples and a 17.1 percent exceedence), and water characteristics (21,183 samples and a 20.3 percent exceedence). Samples collected and analyzed for fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides (4,062 samples), radiochemicals (1,628 samples), wastewater compounds (307 samples), and nutrients (20,822 samples) had the lowest exceedences of 0.3, 8.4, 0.0, and 8.8 percent, respectively.

Table of Contents

     Purpose and Scope
Data Compilation Methods
     Data Sources
     Mandatory Latitude and Longtude in Data Files
     Assigning a Geolithology to Wells
     Clean-up of Data Records and Bulk Processing
     Categories of Analytes
     Analyte Group Abbreviations and Descriptions
     Formats, Naming Conventions, and Abbreviations Used in Data Files
Maps and Tables summarizing the Ground-Water-Quality Data
     Statewide Summary Map
     Summary Maps for 35 Watersheds
     Summary Maps for Nitrate Nitrogen concentrations in Ground Water for 35 Watersheds
     Summary Tables by Source Agency
References Cited

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

View the full report in PDF 1.3 MB

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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