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Preliminary assessment of water chemistry related to groundwater flooding in Wawarsing, New York, 2009-11

October 2, 2012

Water-quality samples collected in an area prone to groundwater flooding in Wawarsing, New York, were analyzed and assessed to better understand the hydrologic system and to aid in the assessment of contributing water sources. Above average rainfall over the past decade, and the presence of a pressurized water tunnel that passes about 700 feet beneath Wawarsing, could both contribute to groundwater flooding. Water samples were collected from surface-water bodies, springs, and wells and analyzed for major and trace inorganic constituents, dissolved gases, age tracers, and stable isotopes. Distinct differences in chemistry exist between tunnel water and groundwater in unconsolidated deposits and in bedrock, and among groundwater samples collected from some bedrock wells during high head pressure and low head pressure of the Rondout-West Branch Tunnel. Samples from bedrock wells generally had relatively higher concentrations of sulfate (SO42-), strontium (Sr), barium (Ba), and lower concentrations of calcium (Ca) and bicarbonate (HCO3-), as compared to unconsolidated wells. Differences in stable-isotope ratios among oxygen-18 to oxygen-16 (δ18O), hydrogen-2 to hydrogen-1 (δ2H), sulfur-34 to sulfur-32(δ34S) of SO42-, Sr-87 to Sr-86 (87Sr/86Sr), and C-13 to C-12 (δ13C) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) indicate a potential for distinguishing water in the Delaware-West Branch Tunnel from native groundwater. For example, 87Sr/86Sr ratios were more depleted in groundwater samples from most bedrock wells, as compared to samples from surface-water sources, springs, and wells screened in unconsolidated deposits in the study area. Age-tracer data provided useful information on pathways of the groundwater-flow system, but were limited by inherent problems with dissolved gases in bedrock wells. The sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and (or) chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) apparent recharge years of most water samples from wells screened in unconsolidated deposits and springs ranged from 2003 to 2010 (current) and indicate short flow paths from the point of groundwater recharge. All but three of the samples from bedrock wells had interference problems with dissolved gases, mainly caused by excess air from degassing of hydrogen sulfide and methane. The SF6 and (or) CFC apparent recharge years of samples from three of the bedrock wells ranged from the 1940s to the early 2000s; the sample with the early 2000s recharge year was from a flowing artesian well that was chemically similar to water samples collected at the influent to the tunnel at Rondout Reservoir and the most hydraulically responsive to water tunnel pressure compared to other bedrock wells. Data described in this report can be used, together with hydrogeologic data, to improve the understanding of source waters and groundwater-flow patterns and pathways, and to help assess the mixing of different source waters in water samples. Differences in stable isotope ratios, major and trace constituent concentrations, saturation indexes, tritium concentrations, and apparent groundwater ages will be used to estimate the proportion of water that originates from Rondout-West Branch Tunnel leakage.

Publication Year 2012
Title Preliminary assessment of water chemistry related to groundwater flooding in Wawarsing, New York, 2009-11
DOI 10.3133/sir20125144
Authors Craig J. Brown, David A. Eckhardt, Frederick Stumm, Anthony Chu
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2012-5144
Index ID sir20125144
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center