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Geohydrology, Water Quality, and Conceptual Model of the Hydrologic System, Saco Landfill Area, Saco, Maine
Nielsen, M.G., Stone, J.R., Hansen, B.P., and Nielsen, J.P.
U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4027, 1995, 94 p.


A geohydrologic study of the Saco Municipal Landfill in Saco, Maine, was done during 1993-94 to provide a preliminary interpretation of the geology and hydrology needed to guide additional studies at the landfill as part of the Superfund Program. The Saco Landfill, which was active from the early 1960's until 1986, includes three disposal areas on a 90-acre parcel. Sandy Brook, a small perennial stream, flows from north to south through the landfill between the disposal areas. Discharge of leachate from the disposal areas to aquifers and streams has been documented since 1974. The landfill was declared a Superfund site in 1990 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Multiple lines of evidence are used in this study to indicate areas of ground-water contamination and sources of water flow in Sandy Brook.

The geohydrologic system on the east side of Sandy Brook consists of an upper water-table aquifer and a lower aquifer, separated by a thick sequence of glaciomarine silt and clay. Depths to bedrock range from 60 to more than 200 ft (feet), on the basis of data from seismic-refraction studies and drilling. The upper aquifer, which is generally less than 15 ft thick, consists of fine- to medium-grained sand deposited in a shallow postglacial marine environment. The lower aquifer, which was deposited as a series of glaciomarine fans, contains two sediment types: well-sorted sand and gravel and unsorted sediments called diamict sediments. East of Sandy Brook, the thickness of the lower aquifer ranges from 25 to 100 ft, based on drilling at the landfill. The glaciomarine silt and clays (known as the Presumpscot Formation) range from 50 to more than 100 ft thick. West of Sandy Brook, the glaciomarine silts and clay is largely absent, and fractured bedrock is very close to land surface under one of the disposal areas in the northwestern part of the property. The lower aquifer is unconfined in the southwestern side of the study area; bedrock slopes towards the south, and the aquifer thickens to 100 ft at the southwestern end of the study area.

Preliminary estimates of mean annual streamflow in Sandy Brook, based on a partial year of continuous record, indicate that runoff increases from approximately 2.1 ft3/s (cubic feet per second) upstream from the landfill to 2.7 ft3/s downstream from the landfill, although the drainage area downstream is only 11 percent greater than the drainage area upstream. A water-budget estimate based on available streamflow and climatic data indicates that Sandy Brook below the landfill gains about 80 million gallons per year from sources outside the drainage-basin boundary. Possible sources include the lower aquifer north or west of the landfill area and the fractured bedrock northwest of Sandy Brook.

Specific conductance of water in Sandy Brook increases downstream from the landfill. In September 1993, specific conductance was 184 mS/cm (microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius) upstream from the landfill and 496 mS/cm downstream from the landfill. Continuous monitoring of specific conductance in Sandy Brook shows that the downstream increase is less during periods of stormflow because of dilution.

Electromagnetic terrain-conductivity surveys, results of ground-water chemical analyses, and changes in streamwater quality have been used to identify areas of likely ground-water contamination. The specific conductance of ground water exceeds 2,000 mS/cm in some areas near the landfills. This compares to specific conductances of less than 200 mS/cm in water from most shallow wells that are considered to represent background water quality. Ground water in the upper aquifer east of Sandy Brook and in the lower aquifer west of Sandy Brook has been affected by leachate flowing from the landfill areas. The extent of contamination in bedrock, if any, is unknown.

Water levels measured in 16 wells were used to help determine the direction of ground-water flow. The electromagnetic terrain-conductivity surveys and stream specific-conductance data support the interpretation that water in the upper aquifer flows radially away from the two disposal areas east of Sandy Brook towards Sandy Brook and other small surface-water bodies in the area. West of Sandy Brook, ground water under the third disposal area moves in the lower aquifer northeast and southeast towards Sandy Brook, where it discharges to the stream.

Suggested citation:
Nielsen, M.G., Stone, J.R., Hansen, B.P., and Nielsen, J.P., 1995, Geohydrology, water quality, and conceptual model of the hydrologic system, Saco landfill area, Saco, Maine: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4027, 94 p.
For additional information contact:
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