Nitrate Contamination of Subsurface Waters in an Urbanizing Area : Final Report

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Title: Nitrate Contamination of Subsurface Waters in an Urbanizing Area : Final Report
Creators: Matisoff, Gerald; Inglis, J. Mark; Kelly, Walton R.
Contributors: Ohio State University. Water Resources Center
Subjects (LCSH): Groundwater -- Pollution -- Ohio -- Lake County
Water -- Nitrogen content
Water -- Pollution -- Ohio -- Lake County
Issue Date: 1982
Publisher: Ohio State University. Water Resources Center
Series/Report no.: OSURF ; no. 713266
Abstract: The ground water system in northern Perry Township in Lake County, Ohio, was examined for its hydrologic and chemical properties to determine the extent of nitrate contamination, its source and transport characteristics. In one well, tne nitrate concentrations were higher than the United States Environmental Protection Agency's limit, and concentrations were elevated throughout a 1.5 square mile area. The ground water system is a shallow, unconfined aquifer consisting of glacial lake beach deposits and less permeable lacustrine plain deposits. Ground water flow is generally from south to north, but strong, local variations are caused by northward flowing streams. The flow is also affected by a horizontal perforated drain installed along a north-south road. The areal distributions of chloride and nitrate suggest that recharge is derived from local infiltration and indicate that the horizontal drain acts as a ground water sink. During the study period, water level measurements were within one foot of a five year average which suggests that the system was under quasi- steady-state conditions during the study period. Fertilizer nitrogen is the probable source of nitrate contamination in the aquifer. A septic effluent component may be indicated in two wells by the molar ratios of total nitrogen to total phosphorus. Ground water flow and solute transport models were used to simulate flow and pollutant transport in the study area under hydrologic steady-state rates of 0-4 feet per day (0-1.2 meters per day) which indicate that in excess of 27 years are required to obtain chemical steady-state. The simulations also demonstrate that nitrate loading must occur in more than one cultivated field and that a commercial nursery is not the sole source of contamination. Road salt run-off easily infiltrates the aquifer and can be readily described by the model. The results underscore the susceptibility of shallow aquifers to even modest surficial chemical contamination. Clearly, the best solution to long-range aquifer protection is the prevention- of contamination. Some types of land-use control, such as limiting the salting of roads along the beach ridge or limiting the indiscriminate application of fertilizer in nursery buildings or on home lawns, may be necessary and easily implemented. Other types of land-use control, such as limiting modest fertilization of cultivated fields, might be considered economically undesirable. In such cases it may be necessary to restrict the development of ground water from an aquifer that is easily contaminated by surface chemical loading.
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