U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007–1149

Monitoring Ground-Water Quality in Coastal Ecosystems

Prepared in cooperation with the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Open-File Report 2007–1149


By John A. Colman and John P. Masterson


This report is available on-line only

The report is in PDF Format (7,901 KB)


Overview of Long-Term Monitoring Program

The Cape Cod National Seashore serves as a National Park Service prototype monitoring park for the Atlantic and Gulf Coast biogeographic region. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, is charged with designing and testing monitoring protocols for implementation at Cape Cod National Seashore. It is expected that many of the protocols will have direct application at other coastal park units, as well as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coastal refuges within the biogeographic region. The Long-Term Coastal Ecosystem Monitoring Program at Cape Cod National Seashore will rely upon numerous protocols that are relevant to the major ecosystem types (Estuaries and Salt Marshes, Barrier Islands/Spits/Dunes, Ponds and Freshwater Wetlands, Coastal Uplands). The ground-water-quality protocol is associated with all of these ecosystem types. The overall monitoring program is designed so that all of the protocols are interrelated. Roman and Barrett (1999) present a conceptual description of the entire monitoring program.

Protocol Organization

To maintain consistency among the various monitoring protocols, each protocol is organized as follows:

PART ONE of the protocol details the objectives of the monitoring protocol and provides justification for the recommended sampling program. The relevant literature and data collected during the protocol-development phase of the project are used to illustrate a particular sampling design, sampling method, or data-analysis technique. For example, PART ONE describes the objectives of a ground-water-quality monitoring program, the types of solute constituents addressed, and justification as to why certain monitoring wells and measurement schedules were selected.

PART TWO is a step-by-step description of the field, data-analysis, and data-management aspects of the protocol. For example, PART TWO states the recommended frequency and step-by-step procedures for collecting water samples for analysis of nitrogen chemical species at a monitoring well.



Overview of Long-Term Monitoring Program

Protocol Organization

Executive Summary


Part One Protocol Background and Justification


Monitoring Questions: Specific Ground-Water-Quality Trends and Issues To Address

Climate Change

Sea-Level Rise and Erosion

Temperature Change

Baseline and Trends



Phosphorus Sources and Transport

Nitrogen Sources and Transport

Limiting Nutrients

Computing Nutrient Loads

Baseline and Trends

Ground-Water Transport of Toxins, Mutagens and Endocrine Disruptors

Types of Contaminants

Background, Baseline, and Trends

Ground-Water Transport of Materials Deposited from the Atmosphere— Major Ions, Nitrogen, Acidity, and Mercury

Types of Contaminants

Baseline and Trends

Munitions and Discharge from Firearms

Types of Contaminants

Background, Baseline, and Trends

Design of A Ground-Water-Monitoring Network

Type of Water Resource and Use of the Information

Types of Measurements

Monitoring-Site Selection

Site-Selection Approaches

Monitoring Networks

Atmospheric Deposition and Background

Septic-System and Other Nonpoint Sources Associated with Development

Septic Systems At Caco Facilities

Landfills and Other Hazardous Waste Sites

Firing Ranges

Sampling Frequency and Duration of Program

Quality Assurance

Data Reduction and Database

Part Two Specific Protocols

Overview of Data-Collection Procedures

Ground-Water-Quality Well Network

Nonpoint Sources

Atmospheric Deposition and Background

Septic Systems and Other Nonpoint SoUrces Associated with Development

Point Sources

Septic Systems as Point Sources

Gull Pond

Salt Pond

Landfills and Other Hazardous-Waste Sites

Eastham Landfill

Truro Landfill

Other Landfills

Firing Ranges

Well Installation

Monitoring-Well Installation

Multilevel-Sampler (MlS) Installation

Internal-Tube Construction

Drilling and Installation

External-Tube Construction

Installations For Monitoring Trace Contaminants

Trace Inorganic Contaminants

Trace Organic Contaminants

Ground-Water-Quality Sampling



Tubing, Gloves, and Filters

Temperature, Dissolved Oxygen, pH, and Electrical-Conductance Meters

Field-Meter Calibration and Measurement

Logbook and Field Forms




Electrical Conductance






Dissolved Oxygen



Alkalinity and Acid-Neutralizing Capacity

Determination of Alkalinity


Well Purging and Field Measurements of Water Quality

Collection of Water Samples

Preventing Sample ContaminatiOn and Cross Contamination

Labeling Sample Bottles

Filling Sample Bottles

Prevention of Degassing and Maintenance of Anaerobic Conditions

Sample Preservation

Quality-assurance Procedures

Data Management

Data Computations

Maintenance of Project Files and Records

Primary-Record Files

Field Notebook

Meter-Calibration Logbook


Archiving Procedures

References Cited


  1. Map showing Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts, with ground-water contours indicating the five ground-water-flow lenses beneath or adjacent to the Seashore lands.
  2. Photograph showing algae, mostly Cladophora and Ulva, festooning Salt Pond salt marsh grass, June 12, 2001, in a northward view toward the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center.
  3. Map showing land use on lower Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1999 data layer.
  4. Map showing landfills and selected Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 21E sites near Cape Cod National Seashore.
  5. Map showing ground-water-flow vectors for the Pilgrim flow lens, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  6. Map showing ground-water-flow vectors for the Pamet flow lens, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  7. Map showing ground-water-flow vectors for the Chequesset flow lens, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  8. Map showing ground-water-flow vectors for the Nauset flow lens, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  9. Map showing ground-water-contributing areas for embayments of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  10. Map showing ground-water-quality well network for atmospheric deposition and background investigation, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  11. Graphs showing concentration profiles for the background multilevel sampler along Prince Valley Road, Truro, Massachusetts.
  12. Map showing simulated recharge locations for Prince Valley Road multilevel sampler, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  13. Map showing ground-water-quality well network for nutrient loading to coastal embayments.
  14. Graphs showing water-quality profiles from multilevel samplers near Nauset Marsh Estuary, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  15. Graphs showing nitrogen profiles from 2001 to 2005 from the MLS near Nauset Marsh Estuary, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
  16. Map showing well network for the point-source leachfield for the bathhouse at Gull Pond, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  17. Map showing well network for the septic-system leachfield at the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center, Massachusetts.
  18. Aerial photograph of Eastham landfill, Molls Pond, and Minister Pond, Cape Cod Massachusetts.
  19. Diagram of multilevel sampler used to plan required lengths of PVC pipe and to guide drilling of ports for tubing.
  20. Photograph showing multilevel sampler before installation at Prince Valley Road.
  21. Photograph showing installation of multilevel sampler in hollow-stem auger at Prince Valley Road, Truro, Massachusetts.
  22. Photograph showing finished flush-mount multilevel sampler well.
  23. Photograph showing filling the Hydrolab multimeter calibration chamber to just below the level of the dissolved oxygen membrane.
  24. Photograph showing flow-through cell for field measurements of water quality.
  25. Photograph showing filling the Ross pH probe with KCl filling solution.
  26. Photograph showing pH meter for alkalinity measurements.
  27. Photograph showing addition of acid during titration.
  28. Photograph showing geopump set up for pumping multilevel sampler ports.
  29. Photograph showing preservation of samples by using concentrated acid from a Teflon dropping bottle.
  30. Photograph showing potential contamination problems are associated with samples that are opened in a laboratory, for example, during preservation by acid addition.


  1. Selected solid-waste-disposal sites (landfills) and Massachusetts General Law Chapter 21E sites, as of July 2005, in Massachusetts Department of Environment Protection Region 4, near Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  2. Methods and detection limits for chemical constituents included in the ground-water-quality monitoring protocol, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  3. Description of wells by network.
  4. Water-quality properties, constituents, and sampling-frequency interval in years, by network, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  5. Sample-bottle types, preservation, shipping, and holding requirements for monitoring groundwater, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  6. Assignment of colors to multilevel-sampler ports for monitoring at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
  7. Solubility of oxygen in water as a function of temperature and pressure.


Appendix 1. Example of a field-meter-calibration form

Appendix 2. Example of an alkalinity-calculation field form

Appendix 3. Example of a well-purge log

Appendix 4. Example of a conventional-well field form

Appendix 5. Example of a multilevel-sampler field form

Appendix 6. Example of an analytical-services request form

Appendix 7. Example of a laboratory-analysis results form

Suggested citation:
Colman, J.A., and Masterson, J.P., 2007, Monitoring ground-water quality in coastal ecosystems: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2007–1149, 94 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, Inc. Users with disabilities can view information concerning accessibility at access.Adobe.com.

U.S. Geological Survey,
Massachusetts-Rhode Island Water Science Center
Massachusetts Office U.S. Geological Survey 10 Bearfoot Road, Northborough, MA 01532 (508) 490-5000 or visit our Web site at
http://ma.water.usgs.gov http://ma.water.usgs.gov

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America home page. FirstGov button U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2007/1149
Page Contact Information: USGS Publishing Network
Page Last modified: Monday, August 16 2007, 12:30:41 PM