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Supplementary report on the ground-water supplies of the Atlantic City region

January 1, 1936

This report is the second progress report on the ground-water investigations in the Atlantic City region. Many important problems still remain to be solved, however, and it is in no sense a final report.

The report covers the area immediately surrounding Atlantic City, extending from Brigantine to Sea Isle City along the coast and from Absecon to Somers Point on the mainland. In addition to this, a few data are presented bearing on the area along the coast as far south as Wildwood. The area lies in the southern part of the New Jersey Coastal Plain, and the water-bearing formations considered are all unconsolidated and of Miocene or more recent age. The major formations in the region dip gently toward the ocean and possibly extend out under the ocean to the edge of the Continental Shelf, about 100 miles from Atlantic City. The principal ground-water supplies in the area are derived from the so-called "800-foot sand," a member of the Kirkwood formation, and from the overlying Cohansey sands. The 800-foot sand is of wide extent and apparently fairly uniform. The Cohansey sands, on the other hand, cover a wide area but are by no means uniform. At the Atlantic City Water Works two Cohansey sands are recognized-the so-called "100-foot" and "200-foot" sands. Neither of these sands can be differentiated from the other sands of the Cohansey formation over a distance greater than 4 or 5 miles in any direction.

In addition to the supplies derived from ground water, some surface water is used at present by two of the public water supplies. The quality of the water from all the sources of supply now used is satisfactory. The total consumption of water in the region has increased gradually over the entire period of record, except for a moderate decline from 1929 to 1934. Additional water supplies can be obtained from either of two fairly large streams near the region, and possibly also from a more widespread development of the Cohansey sands. The 800-foot sand should not be counted upon as a source of additional water supply, in view of its liability to salt-water contamination. The same danger also exists in the Cohansey sands on the mainland near the shore, but farther inland it is not a serious menace to the supply from these sands

The 100-foot sand at the Atlantic City Water Work has been overdeveloped since 1930, with the result that the head of the water in it has been lowered materially and salt water has been drawn into it through holes in the overlying clay beneath the nearby salt marshes. Three of the five new large-capacity wells drilled to this sand in 1930 have been temporarily or permanently abandoned on account of salt-water intrusion, and the two others will probably have to be abandoned also, unless suitable remedial measures are promptly adopted. It is recommended that the wells to the 100-foot sand be used only when needed to supply the seasonal peak demand and that consideration be given to a project to transform the tidal marshes into a fresh-water pond by means of a suitable dam in order to protect the formation from further contamination. If detailed study proves that the dam and fresh-water pond would not be economically justified, a smaller pond and an embankment and tide gates on the main stream to keep the salt water from flooding the marshes are recommended as less effective but less expensive remedial measures. In view of the experience with the 100-foot sand at the Atlantic City Water Works, it is further recommended that any additional development of the Cohansey sands be preceded by a comprehensive test-well program that will indicate not only the capacity of the sands, but the location of salt water in them and the possibility of its being drawn into existing wells or the proposed new wells.

The salt-water intrusion into the 100-foot sand was effectively studied by means of driven-well points, which, it was found, could easily be driven to a depth of about 100 feet. The fact that the screen of these wells was driven with the casing and that no water was used in the drilling process made it possible to collect true samples of water from every sand encountered in them. This, in turn, made it possible to study the vertical distribution of salt water in each well. The interpretation of the vertical distribution of salt water in these wells was very helpful in arriving at a final decision as to the source of the salt water.

The 200-foot sand at the Atlantic City Water Works has also been subjected to a considerably increased draft since 1930. Although there is no evidence at present that this sand has been overdeveloped, a study of its characteristics suggests that it may not be capable of yielding permanently the capacity of the present wells that tap it. Three test wells have been installed between the well field and the source from which this sand might derive salt water, and they should be sampled regularly to determine the danger of salt-water intrusion into the sand. In a landward direction this sand merges into the other Cohansey sands. It is therefore advisable that any additional development of the Cohansey sands should be undertaken so far inland that the pumping from it will not affect the present wells to the 200-foot sand and thereby increase the danger of salt-water contamination in them.

At present more potable water is taken from the Atlantic City 800-foot sand than from any other source of supply for the region. This sand is the sole source for some of the smaller communities on the barrier beaches. The original static head of the water in it at Atlantic City was between 20 and 25 feet above sea level. The head has been lowered more than 50 feet over much of the region,  and in parts of Atlantic City it has been lowered considerably more than 100 feet. A consideration of the principles governing the relation between salt water and fresh water in water-bearing sands indicates that the 800-foot sand probably contained salt water at a distance of 5 or 10 miles out from Atlantic City before any water was pumped from it. The evidence collected in this investigation indicates that the cone of depression created by the pumping from this sand in the Atlantic City region has probably extended inland to the intake area of the sand, the nearest part of which is probably about 40 miles from Atlantic City. If this is so, the conclusion is almost inescapable that it has also extended oceanward for a distance considerably greater than the 5 or 10 miles to the original zone of contact between the fresh and salt waters, and that salt water is probably being drawn toward the Atlantic City region through this sand. The time of its arrival will depend primarily upon the rate of pumping in the region and upon how much of the fresh water that originally lay between the region and the zone of contact must be removed before the salt water can reach the region. It may arrive in the near future if it advances in the form of a narrow tongue. On the other hand, if it advances along a broader front; so that more of the intervening fresh water must be pumped out of the formation, its arrival may be delayed for some time.

Publication Year 1936
Title Supplementary report on the ground-water supplies of the Atlantic City region
Authors Henry C. Barksdale, Raymond W. Sundstrom, Maurice S. Brunstein
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Title Special Report
Series Number 6
Index ID 70159187
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse