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Contributing recharge areas, groundwater travel time, and groundwater quality of the Missouri River alluvial aquifer near the Independence, Missouri, well field, 1997-2008

February 18, 2011

The City of Independence, Missouri, operates a well field in the Missouri River alluvial aquifer. Contributing recharge areas (CRA) were last determined for the well field in 1996. Since that time, eight supply wells have been installed in the area north of the Missouri River and well pumpage has changed for the older supply wells. The change in pumping has altered groundwater flow and substantially changed the character of the CRA and groundwater travel times to the supply wells.

The U.S Geological Survey, in a cooperative study with the City of Independence, Missouri, simulated steady-state groundwater flow for 2007 well pumpage, average annual river stage, and average annual recharge. Particle-tracking analysis was used to determine the CRA for supply wells and monitoring wells, and the travel time from recharge areas to supply wells, recharge areas to monitoring wells, and monitoring wells to supply wells. The simulated CRA for the well field is elongated in the upstream direction and extends to both sides of the Missouri River. Groundwater flow paths and recharge areas estimated for monitoring wells indicate the origin of water to each monitoring well, the travel time of that water from the recharge area, the flow path from the vicinity of each monitoring well to a supply well, and the travel time from the monitoring well to the supply well.

Monitoring wells 14a and 14b have the shortest groundwater travel time from their contributing recharge area of 0.30 years and monitoring well 29a has the longest maximum groundwater travel time from its contributing recharge area of 1,701 years. Monitoring well 22a has the shortest groundwater travel time of 0.5 day to supply well 44 and monitoring well 3b has the longest maximum travel time of 31.91 years to supply well 10.

Water-quality samples from the Independence groundwater monitoring well network were collected from 1997 to 2008 by USGS personnel during ongoing annual sampling within the 10-year contributing recharge area (CRA) of the Independence well field. Statistical summaries and the spatial and temporal variability of water quality in the Missouri River alluvial aquifer near the Independence well field were characterized from analyses of 598 water samples. Water-quality constituent groups include dissolved oxygen and physical properties, nutrients, major ions and trace elements, wastewater indicator compounds, fuel compounds, and total benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX), alachlor, and atrazine. The Missouri Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) for iron was exceeded in almost all monitoring wells. The Missouri Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic was exceeded 32 times in samples from monitoring wells. The MCL for barium was exceeded five times in samples from one monitoring well. The SMCL for manganese was exceeded 160 times in samples from all monitoring wells and the combined well-field sample. The most frequently detected wastewater indicator compounds were N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET), phenol, caffeine, and metolachlor. The most frequently detected fuel compounds were toluene and benzene. Alachlor was detected in 22 samples and atrazine was detected in 37 samples and the combined well-field sample. The MCL for atrazine was exceeded in one sample from one monitoring well.

Samples from monitoring wells with median concentrations of total inorganic nitrogen larger than 1 milligram per liter (mg/L) are located near agricultural land and may indicate that agricultural land practices are the source of nitrogen to groundwater. Largest median values of specific conductance; total inorganic nitrogen; dissolved calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, arsenic, manganese, bicarbonate, and sulfate and detections of wastewater indicator compounds generally were in water samples from monitoring wells with CRAs that intersect the south bank of the Missouri River. Zones of higher specific conductance were located just upstream from the Independence well field at south-bank outfalls from wastewater treatment plants, the Blue River, and the south bank of the Missouri River near the closed oil refinery. The long-term presence of these south-bank outfalls and the large specific conductance indicate that the surface water at the south bank of the Missouri River near the Independence well field may have consistently higher dissolved solids and nutrients that can be induced into the aquifer by pumping. Large median concentrations of sodium and chloride from samples from monitoring wells may be the result of road salt use on State Highway 291 or from Mill Creek, which drains the uplands south of the Independence well field. Large median concentrations of arsenic in samples from some monitoring well nests are most likely associated with dissolution of iron and sulfide minerals and fluctuation between oxidizing and reducing conditions. Largest median concentrations for arsenic are in the shallow depth interval where fluctuations between oxidizing and reducing conditions occur. Median concentrations of iron are large in all monitoring wells and are most likely caused by the interaction between fluctuating oxidizing and reducing conditions and siderite and ferric hydroxide.

Spatial and temporal trends are not evident from the fuel compounds or total BTEX sample results. Alachlor and atrazine were detected in most monitoring wells and atrazine was detected more often than alachlor. The source of alachlor and atrazine in groundwater near the Independence well field is most likely from nearby agricultural land management practices and (or) the Missouri River. Many of the samples from monitoring wells with alachlor or atrazine detections greater than 10 percent have contributing recharge areas that intersect either agricultural land or the Missouri River bed. 

Publication Year 2011
Title Contributing recharge areas, groundwater travel time, and groundwater quality of the Missouri River alluvial aquifer near the Independence, Missouri, well field, 1997-2008
DOI 10.3133/sir20105232
Authors Brian P. Kelly
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2010-5232
Index ID sir20105232
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Missouri Water Science Center