USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5052

link to cover

Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Distribution and Migration of Ordnance-Related Compounds and Oxygen and Hydrogen Stable Isotopes in Ground Water near Snake Pond, Sandwich, Massachusetts

By Denis R. LeBlanc, Andrew J. Massey, Jessica J. Cochrane, Jonathan H. King, and Kirk P. Smith

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Environmental Command


Explosive compounds, such as RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine) and HMX (octahydro-1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine), and the propellant compound perchlorate are present in ground water near Snake Pond, a ground-water flow-through glacial kettle pond in the glacial sand and gravel aquifer on western Cape Cod near Camp Edwards on the Massachusetts Military Reservation. The contaminants originate from the J-3 Range ordnance training and testing area. Ground-water samples were collected at 10 sites near the pond to determine the paths of the contaminants as they underflow or completely or partially discharge into the pond. Water-quality profiles were developed for sites on opposite ends of a 200-foot-long intermittent island near the northern, upgradient end of the pond by collecting water samples from two temporary drive-point borings. RDX was detected at both locations between 60 and 90 feet below the pond level. The highest RDX concentration was 0.99 micrograms per liter. Perchlorate was detected at only one location on the island, between 95 and 100 feet below the pond level at a concentration of 0.61 micrograms per liter. Profiles of oxygen and hydrogen stable isotopes were developed for seven sites spaced 300 to 600 feet apart along the southern, downgradient shore of the pond. A transition from heavier to lighter oxygen and hydrogen isotopes was observed at an altitude of about -50 feet. This transition most likely is the boundary between evaporation-affected pond water that is seeping into the aquifer and ground water that has passed beneath the pond. RDX was not detected in the ground-water samples collected south of the pond. Perchlorate was detected only in one sample from a shallow depth in one boring. The results of these analyses indicate that the J-3 Range plume contains low concentrations of RDX and perchlorate (less than 1 microgram per liter) as it passes beneath the northern end of Snake Pond. Results of ground-water-flow modeling indicate that ground water containing these low levels of RDX and perchlorate discharges into the pond south of the island. If the contaminated ground water should travel as far as the southern shore of the pond, it would be overlain near the shore by a zone of pond water seeping into the aquifer that is about 100 feet thick.

This report is available as a printed product and in PDF Format (1.29 MB)


The cover for this report is also available in PDF Format (267 KB)


If you have Adobe® Acrobat® or Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® installed on your computer, you may view and print the PDF version of this report. Acrobat Reader, is a free download from Adobe Systems, Inc. Users with disabilities can view information concerning accessibility at

Suggested citation:
LeBlanc, D.R., Massey, A.J., Cochrane, J.J., King, J.H., and Smith, K.P., 2008, Distribution and migration of ordnance-related compounds and oxygen and hydrogen stable isotopes in ground water near Snake Pond, Sandwich, Massachusetts, 2001–2006: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5052, 19 p.

For more information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey,
Massachusetts-Rhode Island Water Science Center
10 Bearfoot Road, Northborough, MA 01532
or visit our Web site at

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Publishing Service Center
Page Last Modified: Thursday, 10-Jan-2013 15:25:38 EST