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Distribution of selected hydrogeologic characteristics of the upper glacial and Magothy aquifers, Long Island, New York

October 1, 2020

The Pleistocene- and Cretaceous-age sediments underlying Long Island, New York, compose an important sole-source aquifer system that is nearly 2,000 feet thick in some areas. Sediment characteristics of importance for water supply include water-transmitting properties—horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity—and the distribution of lignite, which provides an important control on oxygen-reduction (redox) conditions and water quality, in Cretaceous-age aquifers. Several decades of urbanization and the associated need to meet water demand have generated abundant data on the lithology of the aquifer sediments and the potential for an improved regional-scale understanding of this aquifer system. There is a range in the source and quality of the information, but large amounts of data, even of lesser quality, can yield insight into important aquifer characteristics.

The distribution of the horizontal and vertical hydraulic conductivity and the probability of occurrence of lignite and clay in the aquifer were developed for this study from a database of drilling records and geophysical logs. Lithologic descriptions were categorized into a set of standardized codes, which in turn, were aggregated into a set of general codes for the Pleistocene-age upper glacial and Cretaceous-age Magothy aquifers. General values of hydraulic conductivity were assigned to each code from published estimates on Long Island and analogous hydrogeologic environments on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A binary value of 1 or 0 was assigned to each coded interval to indicate the presence or absence of lignite or based on keywords in the lithologic descriptions. This information was assembled into a geographic information system database that was queried sequentially and used to develop gridded values of each aquifer characteristic by use of ordinary kriging for a set of grids, each representing 10-foot-thick planar slices for the entire vertical thickness of each aquifer. These sets of grids, taken as a whole, represent a quasi-three-dimensional representation of each aquifer characteristic in both the upper glacial and Magothy aquifers.

The analysis of hydraulic conductivity shows patterns that generally reflect known depositional features of each unit and are consistent with the current understanding of the geology of the aquifers. Spatial patterns in the upper glacial aquifer show contrasts in estimated hydraulic conductivity: lower values occur in inland areas and likely are associated with glacial moraines; higher values generally occur to the south in association with glacial outwash. Higher values of hydraulic conductivity in the Magothy aquifer, which resulted from deltaic deposition, generally occur in the basal parts of the unit, are associated with channel-lag deposits and are found in parts of the aquifer known for large well yields. Lower values of hydraulic conductivity generally occur in middle parts of the aquifer associated with deposition in overbank and wetland environments. The probability of lignite occurrence is highest in this same vertical zone of the Magothy aquifer, consistent with deposition in wetland environments. The probability of lignite occurrence generally is highest along the southern shore of the island. Lignite occurrence generally is consistent with water-quality patterns; water quality in these same areas indicate chemically reducing conditions and redox-related iron biofouling commonly occurs.