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Groundwater quality of the Gulf Coast aquifer system, Houston, Texas, 2007-08

December 18, 2010

In the summers of 2007 and 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the City of Houston, Texas, completed an initial reconnaissance-level survey of naturally occurring contaminants (arsenic, other selected trace elements, and radionuclides) in water from municipal supply wells in the Houston area. The purpose of this reconnaissance-level survey was to characterize source-water quality prior to drinking water treatment. Water-quality samples were collected from 28 municipal supply wells in the Houston area completed in the Evangeline aquifer, Chicot aquifer, or both. This initial survey is part of ongoing research to determine concentrations, spatial extent, and associated geochemical conditions that might be conducive for mobility and transport of these constituents in the Gulf Coast aquifer system in the Houston area. Samples were analyzed for major ions (calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bromide, chloride, fluoride, silica, and sulfate), selected chemically related properties (residue on evaporation [dissolved solids] and chemical oxygen demand), dissolved organic carbon, arsenic species (arsenate [As(V)], arsenite [As(III)], dimethylarsinate [DMA], and monomethylarsonate [MMA]), other trace elements (aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, lithium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silver, strontium, thallium, vanadium, and zinc), and selected radionuclides (gross alpha- and beta-particle activity [at 72 hours and 30 days], carbon-14, radium isotopes [radium-226 and radium-228], radon-222, tritium, and uranium). Field measurements were made of selected physicochemical (relating to both physical and chemical) properties (oxidation-reduction potential, turbidity, dissolved oxygen concentration, pH, specific conductance, water temperature, and alkalinity) and unfiltered sulfides. Dissolved organic carbon and chemical oxygen demand are presented but not discussed in the report. Physicochemical properties, major ions, and trace elements varied considerably. The pH ranged from 7.2 to 8.1 (median 7.6); specific conductance ranged from 314 to 856 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius, with a median of 517 microsiemens per centimeter; and alkalinity ranged from 126 to 324 milligrams per liter as calcium carbonate (median 167 milligrams per liter). The range in oxidation-reduction potential was large, from -212 to 244 millivolts, with a median of -84.6 millivolts. The largest ranges in concentration for filtered major ion constituents were obtained for cations sodium and calcium and for anions chloride and bicarbonate (bicarbonate was calculated from the measured alkalinity). Filtered arsenic was detected in all 28 samples, ranging from 0.58 to 15.3 micrograms per liter (median 2.5 micrograms per liter), and exceeded the maximum contaminant level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of 10 micrograms per liter in 2 of the 28 samples. As(III) was the most frequently detected arsenic specie. As(III) concentrations ranged from less than 0.6 to 14.9 micrograms arsenic per liter. The range in concentrations for the arsenic species As(V) was from less than 0.8 to 3.3 micrograms arsenic per liter. Barium, boron, lithium, and strontium were detected in quantifiable (equal to or greater than the laboratory reporting level) concentrations in all samples and molybdenum in all but one sample. Filtered iron, manganese, nickel, and vanadium were each detected in at least 18 of the 28 samples. All other selected trace elements were each detected in 16 or fewer samples. Radionuclides were detected in most samples. The gross alpha-particle activities at 30 days and 72 hours ranged from R-0.94 to 15.5 and R-1.1 to 17.2 picocuries per liter, respectively ('R' indicates nondetected result less than the sample-specific critical level). The combined radium (radium-226 plus radium-228) concentrations ranged from an estimat

Publication Year 2010
Title Groundwater quality of the Gulf Coast aquifer system, Houston, Texas, 2007-08
DOI 10.3133/ds548
Authors Jeannette H. Oden, Timothy D. Oden, Zoltan Szabo
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Series
Series Number 548
Index ID ds548
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Texas Water Science Center