Reconnaissance Investigation of Volatile and Semivolatile Organic Compounds in the Memphis Aquifer at Alamo, Crockett County, Tennessee

U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 90-580

by S.S. Hutson and C.J. Haugh

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Samples of ground water and soil gas were analyzed to study the occurrence of volatile and semivolatile organic compounds in the Memphis aquifer at Alamo in western Tennessee in 1989. At Alamo, the aquifer is locally unconfined. Four wells screened in the Memphis aquifer provided Alamo with 0.3 million gallons of water per day. Trichloroethylene (TCE), dichloroethylene, trichloroethane, and tetrachloroethylene were detected in water samples from two of the wells. In September 1989, the TCE concentration in a sample from well 1 was 45 micrograms per liter (mg/L); Tennessee’s maximum contaminant level for TCE in drinking water is 5 mg/L Concentrations of TCE in water from this well ranged from 40 to 113 mg/L during I988 and 1989. TCE concentration in water collected from well 2 in September 1989 was 0.7 mg/L During I988 and 1989, TCE concentrations in this well ranged from less than 0.5 to 5.1 mg/L None of the semivolatile organic compounds on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s priority-pollutant list were detected in water from well 1.

Soil gas was sampled at a depth of 3.5 feet below land surface in areas of suspected ground-water contamination. Analyses by gas chromatography indicated the presence of TCE in soils about 230 feet east of well 1 in the area of a former industrial site where solvents were handled. TCE concentrations in the soil gas of this area ranged from 0.2 to 30 mg/L TCE was not detected in soil gas near any of the wells.

Depth to water at the wells ranged from 39 to 49 feet. The regional direction of ground-water flow is to the west-southwest, which would cause contaminants dissolved in ground water below the former industrial-site area to be transported toward the public-supply wells.

Probable reasons contributing to the lack of TCE detection in soil gas at wells 1 and 2 are the relatively low concentrations of TCE in ground water at the wells and the vertical distance between sampling points and the water table.

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