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Open-File Report 2013–1021

Prepared in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Groundwater Quality in the Mohawk River Basin, New York, 2011

By Elizabeth A. Nystrom and Tia-Marie Scott

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4.17 MB)Abstract

Water samples were collected from 21 production and domestic wells in the Mohawk River Basin in New York in July 2011 to characterize groundwater quality in the basin. The samples were collected and processed using standard U.S. Geological Survey procedures and were analyzed for 148 physiochemical properties and constituents, including dissolved gases, major ions, nutrients, trace elements, pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), radionuclides, and indicator bacteria.

The Mohawk River Basin covers 3,500 square miles in New York and is underlain by shale, sandstone, carbonate, and crystalline bedrock. The bedrock is overlain by till in much of the basin, but surficial deposits of saturated sand and gravel are present in some areas. Nine of the wells sampled in the Mohawk River Basin are completed in sand and gravel deposits, and 12 are completed in bedrock. Groundwater in the Mohawk River Basin was typically neutral or slightly basic; the water typically was very hard. Bicarbonate, chloride, calcium, and sodium were the major ions with the greatest median concentrations; the dominant nutrient was nitrate. Methane was detected in 15 samples. Strontium, iron, barium, boron, and manganese were the trace elements with the highest median concentrations. Four pesticides, all herbicides or their degradates, were detected in four samples at trace levels; three VOCs, including chloroform and two solvents, were detected in four samples. The greatest radon-222 activity, 2,300 picocuries per liter, was measured in a sample from a bedrock well, but the median radon activity was higher in samples from sand and gravel wells than in samples from bedrock wells. Coliform bacteria were detected in five samples with a maximum of 92 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters.

Water quality in the Mohawk River Basin is generally good, but concentrations of some constituents equaled or exceeded current or proposed Federal or New York State drinking-water standards. The standards exceeded are color (1 sample), pH (1 sample), sodium (9 samples), chloride (1 sample), sulfate (2 samples), dissolved solids (7 samples), aluminum (3 samples), iron (8 samples), manganese (6 samples), radon-222 (10 samples), and bacteria (5 samples). Fecal coliform bacteria and Escherichia coli (E. coli) were each detected in one sample. Concentrations of fluoride, nitrate, nitrite, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, thallium, zinc, and uranium, and gross alpha activities, did not exceed existing drinking-water standards in any of the samples collected. Methane concentrations in two samples were greater than 28 milligrams per liter, and the maximum measured concentration was 44.3 milligrams per liter.

First posted January 29, 2013

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New York Water Science Center
425 Jordan Road
Troy, NY 12180
(518) 285-5600

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Suggested citation:

Nystrom, E.A., and Scott, T., 2013, Groundwater quality in the Mohawk River Basin, New York, 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013-1021, 43 p., at




Methods of Investigation

Groundwater Quality


References Cited

Appendix: Results of Water-Sample Analyses

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