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Hydrology and geochemistry of a slag-affected aquifer and chemical characteristics of slag-affected ground water, northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois

July 1, 1998

Slag is a by-product of steel manufacturing and a ubiquitous fill material in northwestern Indiana. Ground water associated with slag deposits generally is characterized by high pH and elevated concentrations of many inorganic water-quality constituents. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, conducted a study in northwestern Indiana from June 1995 to September 1996 to improve understanding of the effects of slag deposits on the water quality of a glacial-outwash aquifer. The Bairstow Landfill, a slag-fill deposit overlying the Calumet aquifer near Hammond, Indiana, was studied to represent conditions in slag-deposit settings that are common in northwestern Indiana. Ground water from 10 observation wells, located in four nests at the site, and surface water from the adjacent Lake George were analyzed for values of field-measured parameters and concentrations of major ions, nutrients, trace elements, and bulk properties. Solid-phase samples of slag and aquifer sediment collected during drilling were examined with X-ray diffraction and geochemical digestion and analysis. Concentrations of calcium, potassium, sodium, and sulfate were highest in wells screened partly or fully in slag. Potassium concentrations in ground water ranged from 2.9 to 120 milligrams per liter (mg/L), were highest in water from slag deposits, and decreased with depth. The highest concentrations for aluminum, barium, molybdenum, nickel, and selenium were in water from the slag. Silica concentrations were highest in wells screened directly beneath the slag?aquifer interface, and magnesium concentrations were highest in intermediate and deep aquifer wells. Silica concentrations in shallow and intermediate aquifer wells ranged from 27 to 41 mg/L and were about 10 times greater than those in water from slag deposits. The highest concentrations for chromium, lead, and zinc were in ground water from immediately below the slag?aquifer interface. The solid-phase analyses indicated that calcite, dolomite, and quartz generally were present throughout the slag?aquifer system; barian celestite, cristobalite, manganese-bearing calcite, and minrecordite were present in fewer samples. Trace elements that are liberated from the slag may be incorporated as impurities during precipitation of major minerals, sorbed onto clays and other grainsize fractions not analyzed as part of this study, or present in low-abundance minerals that were not detected by the X-ray analysis. Mass-balance and speciation programs were used to identify geochemical processes that may be occurring as water infiltrates through the slag, flows into the aquifer, and discharges into Lake George. The geochemical models indicate that precipitation of calcite may be occurring where slag-affected water enters the aquifer. Models also indicate that dolomite precipitation and clay-mineral dissolution may be occurring at the slag?aquifer interface; however, dolomite precipitation is generally believed to require geologically long time periods. Silica may be dissolving where slag-affected ground water enters the aquifer and may be precipitating where slag-affected ground water discharges to the lakebed of Lake George. In addition to the site-specific study, a statistical analysis of regional water quality was done to compare ground water in wells affected and unaffected by slag. When com-pared to wells in background locations in the Calumet aquifer, wells screened in slag across northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois generally had relatively higher pH and specific-conductance values and relatively higher concentrations of alkalinity, dissolved solids, suspended solids, total organic carbon, calcium, potassium, sodium, chloride, aluminum, barium, and possibly magnesium, sulfate, chromium, cobalt, copper, cyanide, manganese, mercury, nickel, and vanadium. When compared to wells in slag and wells in background locations, ground water from immediat

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Hydrology and geochemistry of a slag-affected aquifer and chemical characteristics of slag-affected ground water, northwestern Indiana and northeastern Illinois
DOI 10.3133/wri974198
Authors E. Randall Bayless, T. K. Greeman, C.C. Harvey
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 97-4198
Index ID wri974198
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse