Kentucky Geological Survey Report of Investigations


The Kentucky Geological Survey and the Kentucky Division of Water are evaluating groundwater quality throughout the commonwealth to determine regional conditions, assess impacts of nonpoint-source contaminants, provide a baseline for tracking changes, and provide essential information for environmental-protection and resource-management decisions. This report summarizes expanded groundwater monitoring activities and groundwater quality in watersheds of the Upper Cumberland River, Lower Cumberland River, Tennessee River, and the Jackson Purchase Region (Kentucky Basin Management Unit 3).

Thirty wells and springs were sampled seasonally between the summer of 2000 and the spring of 2001, and analyzed at the Kentucky Division of Environmental Services Laboratory. Analytical results for selected water properties, major and minor inorganic ions, metals, nutrients, pesticides, and volatile organic chemicals were combined with data retrieved from the Kentucky Groundwater Data Repository. The repository is maintained by the Kentucky Geological Survey and contains reports received from the Division of Water’s Ambient Groundwater Monitoring Program as well as results of investigations by the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, Kentucky Geological Survey, Kentucky Division of Pesticide Regulation, and other agencies. Statistics such as the number of measurements reported, the number of sites sampled, quartile values (maximum, third quartile, median, first quartile, and minimum), and the number of sites at which water-quality standards were exceeded summarize the data, and probability plots illustrate the data distribution. Maps show well and spring locations and sites where water-quality standards were met or exceeded. Box-and-whisker diagrams compare values between physiographic regions, major watersheds, wells and springs, and total versus dissolved metals. Plots of analyte concentrations versus well depth compare groundwater quality in shallow, intermediate, and deep groundwater flow systems.

Table A-1 summarizes the findings. General water properties (pH, total dissolved solids, total suspended solids, electrical conductance, and hardness), inorganic anions (chloride, sulfate, and fluoride), and metals (arsenic, barium, mercury, iron, and manganese) are primarily controlled by bedrock lithology. Some exceptionally high values of conductance, hardness, chloride, and sulfate may be affected by oil and gas production, and some exceptionally low pH values may indicate the input of acid mine drainage. Nutrient concentrations (ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, orthophosphate, and total phosphorus) show a strong potential contribution from agricultural and waste-disposal practices. Synthetic organic chemicals such as pesticides (2,4-D, alachlor, atrazine, cyanazine, metolachlor, and simazine) and volatile organic compounds (benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, xylene, and MTBE1) do not occur naturally in groundwater. Detection of these man-made chemicals in groundwater must be attributed to contamination. These synthetic chemicals are detected more commonly in springs and shallow wells than in deeper wells, indicating that the shallow groundwater system is particularly vulnerable to nonpoint-source contamination.

Publication Date



Series XII

Report Number

Report of Investigations 15

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

Funding for this project was provided in part by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as authorized by the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1987, Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Implementation Grant C9994861-99.