Zoltan Szabo,2 A.A. Pucci, Jr.,3,4 and M.D. Feigenson5


The evolution of water quality in confined aquifers in the New Jersey Coastal Plain may be affected by leakage of pore water from the adjacent confining units. We investigated the distribution and sources of solutes, particularly Sr, in pore water mechanically extracted from clay-silt core samples collected from depths of 552–840 ft (168–256 m) in the lower Miocene Kirkwood Formation at Atlantic City, New Jersey (Ocean Drilling Program Leg 150X). The sampled sediments consist of thin clay-silt stringers in the upper part of the Atlantic City 800-ft sand, a major aquifer, and the massive clay-silt units above and below it. The distribution of Sr and the ratio of 87Sr to 86Sr in the pore water and adjacent shell material were used to identify the possible sources of, and physical processes that may affect the distribution of, Sr in the pore water.

Concentrations of Sr in 14 pore-water samples from the clay-silt unit above the aquifer and the clay-silt interbeds in the upper part of the aquifer ranged from 2.74 to 28.19 micromoles/L; those in the four pore-water samples from the clay-silt unit below the aquifer ranged from 0.52 to 7.30 micromoles/L. Concentrations of Sr in the samples varied with depth but correlated strongly with pore-water concentrations of Ca, Mg, Na, and SO4. Cation-exchange processes may be responsible, in part, for the lower concentrations of Sr, Ca, and Mg in pore water from the clay-silt unit below the aquifer than in that above the aquifer.

87Sr/86Sr values in 11 samples of aragonitic mollusk shells (bearing no visible evidence of recrystallization) collected from depths in the clay-silt unit similar to those from which the pore-water samples were collected ranged from 0.708468 to 0.708713, and decreased (Sr in the shells was less radiogenic) with depth. This trend is consistent with the decrease in the 87Sr/86Sr value in seawater through time during the early Miocene. The 87Sr/86Sr values in 12 pore-water samples from the studied stratigraphic interval ranged from 0.708257 to 0.708527 and also decreased with depth. The Sr-isotope ratios in the pore water were lower than those in the shell material from nearby or adjacent sediments for all samples but one. Because the only known source of Sr with an isotope ratio this low is shell material from sediments deeper than the strata from which the pore-water samples were collected (including pre-Miocene stratigraphic units), the isotope ratio in the pore-water samples from the lower Miocene clay-silt units may result from upward movement of pore water into lower Miocene strata through geologic time, which could create the observed difference in Sr isotope ratios between the pore water and shells.

1Miller, K.G., and Snyder, S.W. (Eds.), 1997. Proc. ODP, Sci. Results, 150X: College Station, TX (Ocean Drilling Program).
2U.S. Geological Survey, 810 Bear Tavern Rd., Suite 206, W. Trenton, NJ 08628-0099, U.S.A. zszabo@usgs.gov
3Lafayette College, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Easton, PA 18042-1775, U.S.A.
4Present address: P.O. Box 34, Erwinna, PA 18920, U.S.A.
5Rutgers University, Department of Geological Sciences, Piscataway, NJ 08855-1179, U.S.A.