Using hydrogeochemical methods to evaluate complex quaternary subsurface stratigraphy Block Island, Rhode Island, USA

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One of the major problems in Hydrogeologic investigations of glaciated regions is the determination of complex stratigraphic relationships in the subsurface where insufficient information is available from drilling and geophysical records. In this paper, chemical characteristics of groundwater were used to identify stratigraphic changes in glacial deposits that were previously inferred on Block Island, Rhode Island, USA, an emergent remnant of the late Wisconsinan terminal moraine, located approximately 16 km south of the Rhode Island mainland. Two chemically distinct water types are recognized on the island: 1) high-iron, characterized by dissolved silica levels in excess of 20 mg/L, bicarbonate greater than 30 mg/L and dissolved iron ranging from 1-20 mg/L; and 2) low-iron, characterized by dissolved silica levels below 16 mg/L, bicarbonate less than 30 mg/L, and less than 0.3 mg/L dissolved iron. The spatial distribution of iron-bearing minerals and organic matter and the resulting redox conditions are believed to control the occurrence of highiron groundwater. The high-iron waters occur almost exclusively in the eastern half of the island and appear to coincide with the presence of allochthonous blocks of Cretaceous-age coastal-plain sediments that were incorporated into Pleistocene-age deposits derived from the Narragansett Bay-Buzzard's Bay lobe of the Late Wisconsinan Laurentide ice sheet. The low-iron waters occur in the western half of the island, where the occurrence of these Cretaceous-age blocks is rare and the sediments are attributed to a sublobe of the Hudson-Champlain lobe of the Late Wisconsinan ice sheet.

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Hydrogeology Journal