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Using multiple geochemical tracers to characterize the hydrogeology of the submarine spring off Crescent Beach, Florida

January 1, 2001

A spectacular submarine spring is located about 4 km east of Crescent Beach, FL, in the Atlantic Ocean. The single vent feature of Crescent Beach Spring provides a unique opportunity to examine onshore–offshore hydrogeologic processes, as well as point source submarine ground water discharge. The Floridan aquifer system in northeastern Florida consists of Tertiary interspersed limestone and dolomite strata. Impermeable beds confine the water-bearing zones under artesian pressure. Miocene and younger confining strata have been eroded away at the vent feature, enabling direct hydrologic communication of Eocene ground water with coastal bottom waters.

The spring water had a salinity of 6.02, which was immediately diluted by ambient seawater during advection/mixing. The concentration of major solutes in spring water and onshore well waters confirm a generalized easterly flow direction of artesian ground water. Nutrient concentrations were generally low in the reducing vent samples, and the majority of the total nitrogen species existed as NH3. The submarine ground water tracers, Rn-222 (1174 dpm l−1, dpm), methane (232 nM) and barium (294.5 nM) were all highly enriched in the spring water relative to ambient seawater. The concentrations of the reverse redox elements U, V and Mo were expectedly low in the submarine waters. The strontium isotope ratio of the vent water (87Sr/86Sr=0.70798) suggests that the spring water contain an integrated signature indicative of Floridan aquifer system ground water. Additional Sr isotopic ratios from a series of surficial and Lower Floridan well samples suggest dynamic ground water mixing, and do not provide clear evidence for a single hydrogeologic water source at the spring vent. In this karst-dominated aquifer, such energetic mixing at the vent feature is expected, and would be facilitated by conduit and fractured flow. Radium isotope activities were utilized to estimate flow-path trajectories and to provide information on potential travel times between an onshore well and the spring. Using either 223Ra and 224Ra or 228Ra, and qualifying this approach with several key assumptions, estimates of water mass travel times from an upper Floridan well in Crescent Beach to the submarine vent feature (distance=4050 m) are in the order of ∼0.01–0.1 m min−1.

Publication Year 2001
Title Using multiple geochemical tracers to characterize the hydrogeology of the submarine spring off Crescent Beach, Florida
DOI 10.1016/S0009-2541(01)00322-9
Authors P.W. Swarzenski, C. D. Reich, R. M. Spechler, J. L. Kindinger, W.S. Moore
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Chemical Geology
Index ID 70023783
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse