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Open-File Report 2008-1086


Ground-Water Quality in the Mohawk River Basin, New York, 2006

By Elizabeth A. Nystrom

Prepared in cooperation with


Water samples were collected from 27 wells from August through November 2006 to characterize ground-water quality in the Mohawk River Basin. The Mohawk River Basin covers 3,500 square miles in central New York; most of the basin is underlain by sedimentary bedrock, including shale, sandstone, and carbonates. Sand and gravel form the most productive aquifers in the basin. Samples were collected from 13 sand and gravel wells and 14 bedrock wells, including production and domestic wells. The samples were collected and processed through standard U.S. Geological Survey procedures and were analyzed for 226 physical properties and constituents, including physical properties, major ions, nutrients, trace elements, radon-222, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and bacteria.

Many constituents were not detected in any sample, but concentrations of some constituents exceeded current or proposed Federal or New York State drinking-water quality standards, including color (1 sample), pH (2 samples), sodium (11 samples), chloride (2 samples), fluoride (1 sample), sulfate (1 sample), aluminum (2 samples), arsenic (2 samples), iron (10 samples), manganese (10 samples), radon-222 (12 samples), and bacteria (6 samples). Dissolved oxygen concentrations were greater in samples from sand and gravel wells (median 5.6 milligrams per liter [mg/L]) than from bedrock wells (median 0.2 mg/L). The pH was typically neutral or slightly basic (median 7.3); the median water temperature was 11°C. The ions with the highest concentrations were bicarbonate (median 276 mg/L), calcium (median 58.9 mg/L), and sodium (median 41.9 mg/L). Ground water in the basin is generally very hard (180 mg/L as CaCO3 or greater), especially in the Mohawk Valley and areas with carbonate bedrock. Nitrate-plus-nitrite concentrations were generally higher samples from sand and gravel wells (median concentration 0.28 mg/L as N) than in samples from bedrock wells (median < 0.06 mg/L as N), although no concentrations exceeded established State or Federal drinking-water standards of 10 mg/L as N for nitrate and 1 mg/L as N for nitrite. Ammonia concentrations were higher in samples from bedrock wells (median 0.349 mg/L as N) than in those from samples from sand and gravel wells (median 0.006 mg/L as N). The trace elements with the highest concentrations were strontium (median 549 micrograms per liter [μg/L]), iron (median 143 μg/L), boron (median 35 μg/L), and manganese (median 31.1 μg/L). Concentrations of several trace elements, including boron, copper, iron, manganese, and strontium, were higher in samples from bedrock wells than those from sand and gravel wells. The highest radon-222 activities were in samples from bedrock wells (maximum 1,360 pCi/L); 44 percent of all samples exceeded a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standard of 300 pCi/L. Nine pesticides and pesticide degradates were detected in six samples at concentrations of 0.42 μg/L or less; all were herbicides or their degradates, and most were degradates of alachlor, atrazine, and metolachlor. Six volatile organic compounds were detected in four samples at concentrations of 0.8 μg/L or less, including four trihalomethanes, tetrachloroethene, and toluene; most detections were in sand and gravel wells and none of the concentrations exceeded drinking water standards. Coliform bacteria were detected in six samples but fecal coliform bacteria, including Escherichia coli, were not detected in any sample.

Suggested citation:

Nystrom, E.A., 2008, Ground-water quality in the Mohawk River Basin, New York, 2006: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1086, 33 p., online only.

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