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Groundwater quality study: second phase

On May 16, drilling began on several new wells in preparation for phase 2 of the Groundwater Susceptibility Assessment for the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Basin.The study began in 2009 after El Paso County and community representatives expressed concern that the increasing rate of residential development could affect groundwater resources, according to an article in the September 2012 issue of The New Falcon Herald.Following a study of existing wells in the Upper Black Squirrel Creek Alluvial Aquifer for phase 1, Colorado Geological Survey results indicated that water quality was ìpretty good.î There were, however, gaps in data that phase 2 could fill in.Other wells will have to be drilled to provide data from areas within that aquifer that are not accessible by existing wells, said Sean Chambers, general manager of the Cherokee Metropolitan District and chairman of the El Paso County Groundwater Quality Study Committee.ìOur plan is to drill nine or possibly 10 monitoring wells,î Chambers said. ìSome of that is due to the certain parameters that are needed to test it (the well). The water sample must be taken directly out of the aquifer and not come in contact with atmospheric oxygen. Particularly, the northwest quadrant is the part of the basin with not a lot of data points to study and not a lot of wells. We had trouble finding alluvial wells to sample there, so thatís where the majority of the wells will be drilled.îThe first well was drilled near Drake Lake May 16, and water sampling began May 20, said Mike Rupert of the United States Geological Survey. ìWeíll be sampling through mid-July,î Rupert said. ìAfter weíre done sampling, weíll send all the stuff in to the lab, and the project will basically be in a holding pattern until we get the results.ìMost of the samples will be processed at the U.S.G.S. lab in Lakewood, Colo. Weíll be sending some samples to special U.S.G.S. labs in Reston, Va., and Mineral Park, Calif. The lab in Reston looks for Freon in the groundwater and the Mineral Park lab tests for tritium.î Both tests help determine the age of the groundwater, he said.Other tests will be done to determine the presence of chlorofluorocarbons, dissolved gasses, fuel products, major ions and nutrients; and help identify the groundwater geochemistry, Rupert said.The ultimate goal of the study is to create groundwater vulnerability maps that show a predisposition to contamination, he said. Both Rupert and Chambers said the data could be especially useful if oil and gas development continues in the county, because it will provide baseline data. ìPeople could potentially use our baseline data, if they think their water has been contaminated,î Rupert said.The final report will not be available until 2015; some tests can take up to nine months to analyze, he said. ìThis is a really nice, comprehensive study; and itís going to give a lot more useful information since weíre doing a full set of chemistry (tests) on the samples,î Rupert said. All the raw data will be posted on the U.S.G.S website, and a final report will be available to the public online at the completion of the project, he said.Rupert said the U.S.G.S. is still looking for wells to test that have been completed in the alluvial aquifer. Interested parties can contact him at

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