U.S. Geological Survey

Cover image from OF2006-1161 (click for enlargement, 71 KB) Ground-water quality in the upper Susquehanna River Basin, New York, 2004-05

by Kari K. Hetcher-Aguila and David A.V. Eckhardt

Open-File Report 2006-1161


Water samples were collected from 20 public-supply wells and 13 private residential wells throughout the upper Susquehanna River Basin (upstream from the Pennsylvania border) during the fall of 2004 and the spring of 2005 and analyzed to describe the chemical quality of ground water in the upper basin. Wells were selected to represent areas of greatest ground-water use and highest vulnerability to contamination, and to provide a representative sampling from the entire (4,516 square-mile) upper basin. Samples were analyzed for physical properties, nutrients, inorganic constituents, metals, radionuclides, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and bacteria.  

The cations that were detected in the highest concentrations were calcium, magnesium, and sodium; the anions that were detected in the greatest concentrations were bicarbonate, chloride, and sulfate. The predominant nutrient was nitrate, the concentrations of which were greater in samples from sand and gravel aquifers than in samples from bedrock. The metals barium, boron, cobalt, copper, and nickel were detected in every sample; the metals with the highest concentrations were barium, boron, iron, manganese, strontium, and lithium. The pesticide compounds detected most frequently were atrazine, deethylatrazine, alachlor ESA, and two degradation products of metolachlor (metolachlor ESA and metolachlor OA); the compounds detected in highest concentration were metolachlor ESA and OA. Volatile organic compounds were detected in 11 samples, and concentrations of 3 of these compounds exceeded 1 microgram per liter (g/L).  

Several analytes were found in concentrations that exceeded Federal and New York State water-quality standards, which are typically identical. Chloride concentrations exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (SMCL) of 250 milligrams per liter (mg/L) in two samples, and sulfate concentrations exceeded the SMCL of 250 mg/L in one sample. Sodium concentrations exceeded the USEPA Drinking Water Advisory of 60mg/L in six samples. Nitrate concentrations exceeded the USEPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 10 mg/L in one sample and approached this limit (at 9.84 mg/L) in another sample. Barium concentrations exceeded the MCL of 2,000 g/L in one sample. Iron concentrations exceeded the SMCL of 300 g/L in five samples, and manganese concentrations exceeded the SMCL of 50 g/L in 14 samples. Arsenic was detected in seven samples, and the MCL for arsenic (10 g/L) was exceeded in two samples. Radon-222 exceeded the proposed MCL of 300 picocuries per liter in 24 samples. Any detection of total coliform or fecal coliform bacteria is considered a violation of New York State health regulations; in this study, total coliform was detected in six samples; fecal coliform was detected in one sample, and Escherichia coli was not detected in any sample. 

Citation: Hetcher-Aguila, K.K. and Eckhardt, D.A.V., 2006, Ground-water quality in the upper Susquehanna River Basin, New York, 2004-05: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1161, 20 p., online only.

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