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El Dorado News-Times
 
USGS unveils 12 potential water well monitoring sites
By: TONI WALTHALL

February 6, 2003


News-Times Staff Officials with the United States Geological Survey unveiled the locations of 12 potential water well monitoring sites Wednesday to the Union County Water Conservation Board.

The wells will monitor both water levels and water quality of the Sparta Aquifer as part of a project funded by a $1 million Environmental Protection Agency grant.

USGS.s proposal includes seven wells with real-time monitoring devices, which will be connected to recorders and transmission lines that will deliver hourly updates to the USGS offices in Little Rock to publish on the agency.s Internet web page.

The USGS has a cooperating agreement with the board to gauge water recovery levels in the Sparta Aquifer related the UCWCB.s industrial pipeline project that will carry water from the Ouachita River to three Union County industries that use high volumes of water.

Lion Oil, Great Lakes Chemical and El Dorado Chemical, in cooperating in a test run, shut off wells and pumps for specific periods of time to determine what the results might be over a five-year period for areas showing conic depressions, like the city of El Dorado, Magnolia and around Ruston and Monroe, La.

From 2003 to 2008, Sparta Aquifer recovery levels ranged from almost no noticeable difference in areas around Magnolia to up to a 140 feet increase around El Dorado, where industries are working to eliminate aquifer water from their operations. Though the pipeline won.t be complete for some time, monitoring indicates that other small conservation measures have resulted in a stabilization of the aquifer levels, that were quickly dropping prior to community efforts.

That information was used to help determine locations for water level monitoring sites.

Huttig and Harrell sites in the upper Sparta, Smackover, Monsanto (El Dorado), Junction City, Lawson/Urbana, Magnolia, Emerson, and two sites in Louisiana will help the board determine how conservation efforts in Union County impact the aquifer in the surrounding areas.

In testing the water quality, the active wells will be checked twice a year by scientists to measure electrical conductivity (dissolved solids in the water), temperature and the presence of chlorides, which have already been detected in aquifer water drawn east of El Dorado.

"Hopefully, we will see chlorides and conductance go down as an indication of better water," said David Freiwald, assistant district chief and supervisory hydrologist. The USGS was expecting to incor porate as many as four existing wells into the study, but Freiwald said there "aren.t enough wells that are of suitable depth and location," as originally thought.

With well construction costs aver aging around $12,000, the utilization of existing wells would save money that could then be directed toward the purchase of additional monitor ing equipment.

Closer inspection of some existing wells has shown that the aquifer "sands" below El Dorado has become "siltier," and is no longer a distinct unit that has the ability to transfer water, according to Tony Schrader, project chief of the USGS, rendering existing wells in Calion, Felsenthal and Strong in the upper Sparta unsuit able for monitoring progres sive conservation efforts in El Dorado, according to Schrader.

Strong wells have indicated an increase in Sparta levels in the past 15 years, while the levels in and around El Dorado have been dropping. "That suggests there is a sealing layer that keeps these areas from connecting," Schrader said. "The likeli hood that you will see any response in Sparta recovery in El Dorado from these wells is very minimal."

Dan Yates and Schrader continue trekking through the region in search of exist ing wells that could fit the bill for depth and location.

The USGS is also consider ing a public relations "high visibility site " near the new state-owned tourist informa tion center property on U.S. 167 and 82 to promote the joint efforts of USGS and the UCWCB. "It.s a location where we could have a monitoring well with a display monitor where the public can push a button to see what the current water level is and would calculate the response of the rise from a set time," Schrader said. "They could see that that area has come up 8 feet in a year, or something like that."

One condition of the board.s EPA grant requires the public to be given access to data collected from this monitoring.

The UCWCB agreed in previous meetings that a Web site would be the most economical and effective way of distributing the information and meeting the EPA requirement. The board was pleased with a recent estimate from Development Information Network of Arkansas (DINA), the same University of Arkansas at Little Rock group that developed and hosts the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce web site.

Ken Rudder said the preliminary $4,200 price tag was "cheap."

"If (DINA) can do the work that cheap, that.s a phenomenal price," he said.

The cost would reduce in the second year after the initial development of the site was complete, according to chairman Robert Reynolds. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19.

¬©El Dorado News-Times 2003
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