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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5263

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Hydrogeologic Framework, Hydrology, and Water Quality in the Pearce Creek Dredge Material Containment Area and Vicinity, Cecil County, Maryland, 2010–11

By Cheryl A. Dieter, Michael T. Koterba, Otto S. Zapecza, Charles W. Walker, and Donald E. Rice

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (24 MB)Abstract

In 2009, to support an evaluation of the feasibility of reopening the Pearce Creek Dredge Material Containment Area (DMCA) in Cecil County, Maryland, for dredge-spoil disposal, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began to implement a comprehensive study designed to improve the understanding of the hydrogeologic framework, hydrology, and water quality of shallow aquifers underlying the DMCA and adjacent communities, to determine whether or not the DMCA affected groundwater quality, and to assess whether or not groundwater samples contained chemical constituents at levels greater than maximum allowable or recommended levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Safe Drinking Water Act.

The study, conducted in 2010–11 by USGS in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, included installation of observation wells in areas where data gaps led earlier studies to be inconclusive. The data from new wells and existing monitoring locations were interpreted and show the DMCA influences the groundwater flow and quality. Groundwater flow in the two primary aquifers used for local supplies—the Magothy aquifer and upper Patapsco aquifer (shallow water-bearing zone)—is radially outward from the DMCA toward discharge areas, including West View Shores, the Elk River, and Pearce Creek Lake. In addition to horizontal flow outward from the DMCA, vertical gradients primarily are downward in most of the study area, and upward near the Elk River on the north side of the DMCA property, and the western part of West View Shores. Integrating groundwater geochemistry data in the analysis, the influence of the DMCA is not only a source of elevated concentrations of dissolved solids but also a geochemical driver of redox processes that enhances the mobilization and transport of redox-sensitive metals and nutrients. Groundwater affected by the DMCA is in the Magothy aquifer and upper Patapsco aquifer (shallow water-bearing zone). Based on minimal data, the water quality in the upper Patapsco aquifer deep water-bearing zone does not seem to have been impacted by the DMCA.

First posted January 17, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, MD-DE-DC Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
5522 Research Park Drive
Baltimore, MD 21228

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Suggested citation:

Dieter, C.A., Koterba, M.T., Zapecza, O.S., Walker, C.W., and Rice, D.E., 2013, Hydrogeologic framework, hydrology, and water quality in the Pearce Creek Dredge Material Containment Area and vicinity, Cecil County, Maryland, 2010–11: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5263, 219 p. with appendixes.




Methods of Water-Quality Data Collection and Data Quality

Hydrogeologic Framework


Water Quality

Integration of Findings



References Cited

Appendixes A–C

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