Impact of a major industrial shutdown on groundwater flow and quality in the St. Marys area, southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida, 2001–2003

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Peck, Michael F.
McFadden, Keith W.
Leeth, David C.
Hatcher, Kathryn J.
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During October 2002, the Durango Paper Company (formerly Gillman Paper Company) in St. Marys, Georgia, shutdown paper-mill operations. The shutdown reduced groundwater withdrawal in Camden County, Georgia, by 35.6 million gallons per day. Pump-ing at the mill resulted in the development of a cone of depression at St. Marys that coalesced with a larger cone of depression at Fernandina Beach, Florida. Since the closure of the mill, the cone at St. Marys is no longer pre-sent and it is estimated that water levels in the Upper Floridan aquifer at the mill site have risen about 140 feet (ft) and are now at about 30 ft above sea level. The water-level rise in wells in outlying areas in Camden County was less pronounced and ranged from about 5 to 10 ft above sea level. Because of the regional upward water-level trend in the Upper Floridan aquifer that started during 1999–2000 in most of the coastal area, combined with a steeper upward trend beginning during October 2002, it was not possible to determine if the 5–10 ft water level rises in wells away from St. Marys was due to the mill closure. In addition to water-level rises of 22–26 ft in the Floridan aquifer system at St. Marys, water-level rises in the overlying surficial and Brunswick aquifer systems after the shutdown indicates upward leakage of water. Chloride concentrations in water from the Upper Floridan aquifer in Camden County do not exceed the State and Federal drinking-water standards (250 milli-grams per liter). However, water in three wells in the St. Marys area had chloride concentrations above the background range, but still below the drinking water stan-dard. The source for the elevated chloride concentration in these wells has not been determined. Chloride concentra-tions throughout Camden County, Georgia showed little change after the paper-mill shutdown.
Sponsored by: Georgia Environmental Protection Division U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Water Science Center U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Water Resources Institute The University of Georgia, Water Resources Faculty
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