Amleto A. Pucci,2,3 Zoltan Szabo,4 and James P. Owens5


Properties of and pore-water solute chemistry in confining units in the New Jersey Coastal Plain were studied to determine whether leakage of solute-enriched pore water from confining units affects regional aquifer-water chemistry, which ultimately may result in aquifer waters with high sodium and bicarbonate concentrations. Pore-water samples collected from a continuously cored borehole in the lower Miocene Kirkwood Formation at Atlantic City, NJ, were analyzed: 15 samples were obtained from clay-silt confining-unit sediments, and four samples were from silt interbeds in the sand of the major confined aquifer in the region, the Atlantic City 800-ft sand. The samples were analyzed to assess interrelations among mineralogy, texture, fluid-retention properties, sediment chemistry, and pore-water chemistry, and to document the scale of variation in these properties.

Linear regressions were developed to describe the relations of constituents dissolved in 14 pore-water samples collected from the lower confining unit overlying the Atlantic City 800-ft sand and from the silt interbeds in the upper sand unit of the Atlantic City 800-ft sand. The regressions were for concentrations of magnesium and calcium (m = 0.27, R2 = 0.99); concentrations of sodium and the sum of calcium and magnesium (m = 0.17, R2 = 0.92); concentrations of sulfate and the sum of calcium and magnesium (m = 1.14, R2 = 0.99); and concentrations of sodium and sulfate (m = 0.14, R2 = 0.89). The percentage of fine sand was greatest in the shallowest sampled interval, where pore-water concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and sulfate were greatest.

The pore-water samples were of three distinct water-quality types (hydrogeochemical facies): a calcium-sulfate type, a mixed calcium-sodium-sulfate-chloride-bicarbonate type, and a sodium-sulfate-bicarbonate-chloride type. The first two types were found only in the lower confining unit; the third type was found only in the composite confining unit underlying the Atlantic City 800-ft sand. Each of these hydrogeochemical facies generally is found within distinct intervals over a range of tens of feet in the core.

Krige estimates of pore-water–constituent variations with depth were made by using only the analytical results for the 14 samples from the lower confining unit overlying the Atlantic City 800-ft sand and the silt interbeds in the upper sand unit of the Atlantic City 800-ft sand. Geostatistical analysis of the pore-water–quality data generally resulted in two types of semivariograms. One semivariogram type best fits concentration trends with depth for calcium, magnesium, strontium, sodium, sulfate, and specific conductance; lithium and chloride may also fit this semivariogram type. The other semivariogram type best fits concentration trends with depth for silica, cation exchange capacity, and dissolved inorganic carbon. The scale of variation of the concentrations and properties is indicated by the maximum lag autocorrelation distance of the theoretical semivariograms (the range) and ranged from 44 to 110 ft (13.4–33.5 m). The scale of variation of pore-water major-ion concentrations of sulfate, chloride, calcium, and magnesium alone is on the order of 65–70 ft (19.8–21.3 m). The semivariograms for all pore-water constituents except silica have significant variance at the smallest lag distance, indicating that the constituent concentration varied over a larger scale than the sampling interval.

The dominant exchangeable cation in the sediment is calcium. Cation exchange reactions do not appear to be the dominant process in the sediments of the lower confining unit above the Atlantic City 800-ft sand, because a linear correlation exists between the concentration of sodium and the sum of calcium and magnesium concentrations in the pore water; concentrations of all these constituents increase in the upward flow direction, and the ratio of sodium to chloride in the pore water is about 1.0.

Two significant principal components explained 82.5% of the total variation in pore-water solute chemistry. Principal component 1 represents about 53% of the variation in pore-water quality and includes calcium, magnesium, sulfate, strontium, and lithium. Coupled chemical processes in the confining units, such as incongruent dissolution of carbonate and other mineral phases or redox transformations of sulfur, likely explain the covariance of these constituents. Principal component 2 represents about 30% of the variation and includes sodium, dissolved inorganic carbon, and chloride. Covariance of sodium and chloride probably is caused by the presence of residual seawater.

1Miller, K.G., and Snyder, S.W. (Eds.), 1997. Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, 150X: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program).
2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Lafayette College, Easton, PA 18042-1775, U.S.A.
3Present address: P.O. Box 34, Erwinna, PA 18920, U.S.A. puccia@epix.net
4U.S. Geological Survey, W. Trenton, NJ 08628-0099, U.S.A.
5Eastern Regional Bureau-Geologic Division, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA 20192, U.S.A. (Deceased)