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Geohydrology and water quality of the unconsolidated deposits in Erie County, Pennsylvania

September 1, 1996

Water in unconsolidated deposits is used for the water supplies of homes, farms, municipalities, and industries in Erie County. The unconsolidated deposits cover most of the bedrock of Erie County. Thickness of the unconsolidated deposits ranged from 60 to 400 feet at 30 sites surveyed by seismic refraction and reflection methods. Water wells, mostly in the unconsolidated deposits, provide adequate domestic supplies. Wells in fractured bedrock can generally provide small domestic supplies; however, droughts can affect some of the domestic water wells. Ground-water withdrawals accounted for 10 million gallons per day of the water used in Erie County in 1984. Mean annual precipitation ranged from 42 to 47 inches per year in Erie County from 1961 through 1990; the southeastern region of the county generally receives more precipitation than the lake shore region to the north. Overland runoff to three segments of the French Creek watershed in the upland area ranged from about 13 to 19 in. per year and base flow ranged from 14 to about 18 in. per year from 1975 to 1992. Evapotranspiration ranged from about 13 to 16 in. per year for those segments. Beach and outwash deposits generally provide the largest supplies of water to wells in Erie County. A median specific capacity of 17 (gal/min)/ft (gallons per minute per foot) of drawdown was determined from records of nondomestic wells in beach deposits and 9 (gal/min)/ft of drawdown in outwash. Mean specific capacity for wells in till deposits was 1.5 (gal/min)/ft. The range in yield and specific capacity, however, was great for the unconsolidated deposits and high yielding outwash deposits are sometimes difficult to locate beneath till and valley-fill deposits. Hydraulic conductivities from three aquifer tests of outwash deposits (sand and gravel) at separate sites ranged from 110 to 2,030 ft/d (feet per day). Hydraulic conductivities from another aquifer test of sand and silt in the water table at Presque Isle ranged from 120 to 215 ft/d. Transmissivities from a third aquifer test of beach sand and gravel ranged from 235 to 262 feet squared per day. Laboratory analyses of stream samples collected during base flows in 1987 and 1988 indicate that concentrations of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, fluoride, lead, mercury, and selenium did not exceed the maximum contaminant levels (MCL's) established for drinking water by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Concentrations of two nontoxic elements, iron and manganese, exceeded USEPA secondary maximum contaminant levels (SMCL's) in samples from selected stream sites. Manganese concentrations exceeded the SMCL of 0.05 milligrams per liter at 19 of 30 stream sites sampled in the Upland Plateau Section of Erie County. Twenty-one wells were sampled for inorganic constituents and selected pesticides. Some samples from three of the wells exceeded the MCL for nitrate. Total arsenic concentrations above the MCL of 50 micrograms per liter were documented intermittently in three water wells in North East Township. Water from six of seven tile drains sampled in agricultural fields contained detectable concentrations of herbicides. These samples document the transport of the herbicides from the shallow ground-water system to local streams. Herbicide concentrations were at or more than minimum reporting levels for atrazine, cyanazine, prometone, and simazine. Atrazine concentrations in all seven samples from tile drains did not exceed the USEPA MCL of 3.0 micrograms per liter.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1996
Title Geohydrology and water quality of the unconsolidated deposits in Erie County, Pennsylvania
DOI 10.3133/wri954165
Authors T. F. Buckwalter, C.L. Schreffler, R.E. Gleichsner
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 95-4165
Index ID wri954165
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center