Assessment of Contaminant Trends in Plumes and Wells and Monitoring Network Optimization at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, Sauk County, Wisconsin

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5106
Prepared in cooperation with the Army Environmental Command
By: , and 



Soil and groundwater at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant (BAAP), Sauk County, Wisconsin, were affected by several contaminants as a result of production and waste disposal practices common during its operation from 1942 to 1975. Three distinct plumes of contaminated groundwater originate on BAAP property and extend off-site, as identified by previous studies. Routine sampling of groundwater quality from a network of monitoring wells and off-site private wells has been performed since 1990, although the number of wells monitored and the monitoring frequency have varied as the approved monitoring plan was modified. During the period of monitoring from 1990 to 2018, numerous site investigations and remedial actions were conducted to address the sources of contamination, contaminated soils, and groundwater. Concentrations of contaminants reportedly decreased between 2000 and 2012 within all three plumes. Five or six contaminants of concern (COCs) were identified for each of the three plumes. An independent assessment of the contaminant plumes and of the monitoring network was conducted using groundwater-quality data collected from more than 600 wells between 2000 and 2018.

In a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Army Environmental Command, a consistent data aggregation and interpolation scheme was applied to derive the likely maximum groundwater plume extents in four 3-year time periods between 2000 and 2018. The plume extent was defined by the Enforcement Standard for each COC and represents the maximum concentration observed in each 3-year time period. The plume boundary analysis shows that the spatial extent of groundwater contamination decreased for most COCs during the study period. Some plume boundaries are not well delineated by the existing monitoring network, particularly the downgradient edge of the Propellant Burning Ground plume. Maps identify the plume boundary in each time period, the sampling well network used to delineate the plume, and wells that were sampled in the 2010–12 period but not sampled in the 2015–18 period.

A series of statistical analyses using the Monitoring and Remediation Optimization System, version 3.0, program were applied to the available COC concentration data for two distinct periods, 2000 to 2012 and 2013 to 2018, with the break between periods coinciding with changes to the monitoring network in 2013. Trends in the concentration of COCs in individual wells varied, although generally more wells had decreasing than had increasing concentrations for most COCs in both time periods. The exceptions were ethyl ether in the 2004–12 period and 2,6-dinitrotoluene in the 2013–18 period, for which more wells had an increasing trend. Spatial moment analysis of concentration data from the well network was used to assess the stability of each plume for the COCs. During the 2000–12 period, most of the contaminant plumes for which data were sufficient to complete the analysis were either decreasing or stable in mass and size. The exceptions were carbon tetrachloride (associated solely with the Propellant Burning Ground plume) and 2,4-dinitrotoluene and 2,6-dinitrotoluene (in the Deterrent Burning Ground plume), which showed an increasing trend in mass. No COCs showed an increasing trend in plume mass in the 2013–18 period. Some wells with increasing trends in concentration or with concentrations greater than the enforcement standard are near the tail of a plume, where increased monitoring may be of value to better define future plume boundaries. A spatial optimization analysis covering the 2013–18 period identified six wells that provided information redundant to that from other wells. A temporal optimization analysis identified optimal sampling frequencies for 125 wells. Remedial actions directed at the Propellant Burning Ground plume coincided with a general decrease in plume mass and size, although in specific areas and depths, the plume size for specific contaminants may still be increasing.

Suggested Citation

Pajerowski, M., Goodling, P., and Metes, M., 2021, Assessment of contaminant trends in plumes and wells and monitoring network optimization at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, Sauk County, Wisconsin: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5106, 80 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Approach
  • Assessment of Contaminant Trends in Plumes and Wells
  • Monitoring Network Optimization
  • Summary
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of contaminant trends in plumes and wells and monitoring network optimization at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant, Sauk County, Wisconsin
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5106
DOI 10.3133/sir20205106
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center
Description Report: x, 80 p.; Data Release; 16 Plates
Country United States
State Wisconsin
County Sauk County
Other Geospatial Badger Army Ammunition Plant
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details