Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Potentiometric levels and water quality in the aquifers underlying Belvidere, Illinois, 1993–96

February 1, 2001

In 1992, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), began a study of the hydrogeology and water quality of the aquifers underlying the vicinity of Belvidere, Boone County, Ill. Previously, volatile organic compounds (VOC's) and other constituents of industrial origin were detected in one or more ground-water samples from about 100 of the approximately 700 monitoring and water-supply wells in the area, including the 8 municipal wells in Belvidere. A glacial drift aquifer underlies at least 50 percent of the 80-square-mile study area; bedrock aquifers that underlie virtually all of the study area include the Galena-Platteville, St. Peter Sandstone, Ordovician, and Cambrian-Ordovician aquifers.

During 1993, water levels were measured in 152 wells and water-quality samples were collected from 97 wells distributed throughout the study area. During 1994–96, similar data were collected from 31 wells. Potentiometric levels in the glacial drift and Galena-Platteville aquifers are similar and range from about 750 to 900 feet above sea level. The potentiometric surfaces of the aquifers are subdued representations of the land surface. Horizontal ground-water flow in the aquifers primarily is towards the Kishwaukee River, which flows through the central part of the study area, and its principal tributaries. Vertical ground-water flow appears to be downward at most locations in the study area, particularly in the urbanized areas affected by pumping of the Belvidere municipal wells and upland areas remote from the principal surface-water drainages. Flow appears to be upward between the Galena-Platteville and glacial drift aquifers where ground water discharges to the Kishwaukee River and its principal tributaries.

All water samples were analyzed for VOC's. Selected samples also were analyzed for trace metals, cyanide, semivolatile organic compounds, or other constituents. VOC's were detected in samples from 50 wells (52 percent of total wells sampled). Twenty-seven specific VOC's were identified in the samples. Samples were collected from six municipal wells in use during the study; two wells were not in use because one or more VOC's exceeded maximum contaminant levels (MCL's). Two VOC's were detected in one of the samples at concentrations below MCL's established by the USEPA for protection of public-water supplies. Samples from 21 wells had at least one VOC detected at a concentration above MCL's. The VOC's detected above MCL's and their maximum concentrations were 1,2-dichloroethene (total), 470 micrograms per liter; trichloroethene (TCE), 360 micrograms per liter; tetrachloroethene (PCE), 82 micrograms per liter; benzene, 53 micrograms per liter; and vinyl chloride, 11 micrograms per liter. TCE and PCE were the most frequently detected VOC's and generally had the highest concentrations. VOC's with concentrations above MCL's were detected in samples from 15 wells open to the glacial drift aquifer and 6 wells open to the Galena-Platteville aquifer.

Generally, the concentrations of VOC's were higher, and number and type of VOC's detected were greater in the glacial drift aquifer than in the Galena-Platteville aquifer and the deeper bedrock aquifers. The high concentrations and spatial distribution of VOC's in the glacial drift aquifer usually were related to nearby sources of contamination. Except in the immediate vicinity of a known hazardous-waste site, possible sources of VOC's in the bedrock aquifers were difficult to identify in the study area; VOC concentrations at most locations in the bedrock aquifers were below 5 micrograms per liter. Most locations where VOC's were detected in the glacial and bedrock aquifers were within about 1,000 feet of the Kishwaukee River. Hydrogeologic factors that affect the distribution of VOC's in the aquifers include ground-water flow through (1) the glacial drift aquifer with discharge to the nearby Kishwaukee River; and (2) the weathered-surface deposits, bedding-plane partings, and fractures in the Galena-Platteville aquifer. One bedding-plane parting intersecting wells that represent an area of about 1.5 square miles has a horizontal hydraulic conductivity as high as 220 feet per day. Pumping of high-capacity wells may contribute to the widespread distribution of VOC’s at low concentrations in the bedrock aquifers.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1999
Title Potentiometric levels and water quality in the aquifers underlying Belvidere, Illinois, 1993–96
DOI 10.3133/wri984220
Authors P.C. Mills, C. A. Thomas, T. A. Brown, D. J. Yeskis, R. T. Kay
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 98-4220
Index ID wri984220
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Illinois Water Science Center