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Open-File Report 2011–1074

Prepared in cooperation with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Groundwater Quality in the Eastern Lake Ontario Basin, New York, 2008

By Amy J. Risen and James E. Reddy


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Water samples were collected from nine production wells and nine private residential wells in the Eastern Lake Ontario Basin of New York from August through October 2008 and analyzed to characterize the chemical quality of groundwater. The wells were selected to provide adequate spatial coverage of the 3,225-square-mile study area; areas of greatest groundwater use were emphasized. Eight of the 18 wells sampled, were screened in sand and gravel aquifers, and 10 were finished in bedrock aquifers. The samples were collected and processed by standard U.S. Geological Survey procedures and were analyzed for 223 physical properties and constituents, including major ions, nutrients, trace elements, radon-222, pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and indicator bacteria.

Water quality in the study area is generally good, but concentrations of some constituents exceeded current or proposed Federal or New York State drinking-water standards; these were: color (2 samples), pH (1 sample), sodium (5 samples), chloride (1 sample), aluminum (2 samples), iron (5 unfiltered samples), manganese (3 samples), radon-222 (13 samples), and bacteria (4 samples). Dissolved-oxygen concentrations in samples from wells finished in sand and gravel [median 3.8 milligrams per liter (mg/L)] were greater than those from wells finished in bedrock (median less than 0.7 mg/L). The pH of all samples was typically neutral or slightly basic (median 7.4); the median water temperature was 11.3 degrees Celsius. The ions with the highest concentrations were bicarbonate (median 174 mg/L) and calcium (median 24.1 mg/L). Groundwater in the basin ranges from soft to moderately hard [less than or equal to 120 mg/L as CaCO3] and median hardness was 90 mg/L as CaCO3. Concentrations of nitrate plus nitrite in samples from sand and gravel wells (median concentration 0.42 mg/L as nitrogen) were generally higher than those in samples from bedrock wells (median <0.04 mg/L as nitrogen). The trace elements with the highest concentrations were strontium [median 138 micrograms per liter (μg/L)], barium (median 38.2 μg/L) and iron (median 44 μg/L). Radon-222 activities were generally high [median 500 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)]; 72 percent of all samples exceeded a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) drinking-water standard of 300 pCi/L. Five pesticides and pesticide degradates were detected among 6 samples at concentrations of 0.03 μg/L or less; most were herbicides or their degradates. Six VOCs were detected among 9 samples at concentrations of 1.2 μg/L or less; these included 3 trihalomethanes, benzene, toluene, and xylenes. Total coliform bacteria were detected in 3 samples, and the heterotrophic plate count exceeded the USEPA maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 500 colony forming units in one sample. Fecal coliform bacteria, including Escherichia coli, were not detected in any sample.

First posted March 31, 2011

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New York Water Science Center
425 Jordan Road
Troy, NY 12180

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Suggested citation:

Risen, A.J., and Reddy, J.E., 2011, Groundwater quality in the Eastern Lake Ontario Basin of New York, 2008: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1074, 32 p., at




Purpose and Scope

Study Area

Physiography, Land Use, and Precipitation

Glacial Deposits


Population and Water Supply


Site Selection

Sampling Methods

Analytical Methods

Groundwater Quality

Physical Properties

Major Ions

Nutrients and Organic Carbon

Trace Elements and Radon-222


Volatile Organic Compounds and Phenolic Compounds



References Cited

Appendixes 1–9

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