In cooperation with the Vermont Army National Guard

Hydrogeologic Framework and Water Quality of the Vermont Army National Guard Ethan Allen Firing Range, Northern Vermont, October 2002 through December 2003

By Stewart F. Clark, Jr., Ann Chalmers, Thomas J. Mack, and Jon C. Denner

Available Online Only

U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5159

Complete text of report is available as a PDF ( 2,440 KB)


The Ethan Allen Firing Range of the Vermont Army National Guard is a weapons-testing and training facility in a mountainous region of Vermont that has been in operation for about 80 years. The hydrologic framework and water quality of the facility were assessed between October 2002 and December 2003. As part of the study, streamflow was continuously measured in the Lee River and 24 observation wells were installed at 19 locations in the stratified drift and bedrock aquifers to examine the hydrogeology. Chemical analyses of surface water, ground water, streambed sediment, and fish tissue were collected to assess major ions, trace elements, nutrients, and volatile and semivolatile compounds. Sampling included 5 surface-water sites sampled during moderate and low-flow conditions; streambed-sediment samples collected at the 5 surface-water sites; fish-tissue samples collected at 3 of the 5 surface-water sites; macroinvertebrates collected at 4 of the 5 surface-water sites; and ground-water samples collected from 10 observation wells, and samples collected at all surface- and ground-water sites.

The hydrogeologic framework at the Ethan Allen Firing Range is dominated by the upland mountain and valley setting of the site. Bedrock wells yield low to moderate amounts of water
(0 to 23 liters per minute). In the narrow river valleys, layered stratified-drift deposits of sand and gravel of up to 18 meters thick fill the Lee River and Mill Brook Valleys. In these deposits, the water table is generally within 3 meters below the land surface and overall ground-water flow is from east to west.

Streamflow in the Lee River averaged 0.72 cubic meters per second (25.4 cubic feet per second) between December 2002 and December 2003. Streams are highly responsive to precipitation events in this mountainous environment and a comparison with other nearby watersheds shows that Lee River maintains relatively high streamflow during dry periods.

Concentrations of trace elements and nutrients in surface-water samples are well below freshwater-quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. Brook-trout samples collected in 1992 and 2003 show trace-metal concentrations have decreased over the past 11 years. concentrations in water samples are well below levels that restrict swimming at all five stream sites at moderate and low-flow conditions and in all observation wells. Comparisons among surface-water, streambed-sediment, and biological samples collected in 2003 to earlier studies at the Ethan Allen Firing Range indicate water-quality conditions are similar or have improved over the past 15 years.

Ground water in the stratified-drift aquifers at the facility is well buffered with relatively high alkalinities and pH greater than 6. Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, nickel, uranium, and zinc were below detection levels in ground-water samples. Barium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and strontium were the only trace elements detected in ground-water samples. Cobalt and iron were detected at low levels in two wells near Mill Brook, and copper was detected at the detection limit in one of these wells. These same two wells had concentrations of barium and manganese 2 to 10 times greater than other ground-water samples. Concentrations of nutrients are at or below detection levels in most ground-water samples. Volatile organic compounds and semivolatile organic compounds were not detected in any water samples from the Ethan Allen Firing Range.




Background and Physical Setting

Purpose and Scope

Previous Studies

Methods of Study


Geologic Mapping

Geohydrologic Data Collection

Water-Quality, Streambed Sediment, and Biologic Sampling

Surface Water

Streambed Sediment


Ground Water

Quality Assurance

Hydrogeologic Framework



Glacial Sediments

Aquifer Characteristics

Water Quality

Surface Water

Streambed Sediment



Fish Tissue


Ground Water


Selected References

Appendix 1. Lithologic logs of wells and boring drilled at Ethan Allen Firing Range in northern Vermont

Appendix 2. Well data in and near the Ethan Allen Firing Range in northern Vermont

Appendix 3. Constituents analyzed and reporting limits for analysis of water, streambed sediment, and fish tissue at Ethan Allen Firing Range in northern Vermont

Appendix 4. Macroinvertebrate abundance and average flow velocity in five streams at Ethan Allen Firing Range in northern Vermont, June 18, 2003


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For more information concerning the research in this report, contact:


Brian Mrazik, Director


NH-VT Water Science Center

361 Commerce Way

Pembroke, NH 03275


Web site:

Phone: (603) 226-7807



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