Hydrogeology of the Brunswick (Passaic) Formation and Implications for Ground Water Monitoring Practice


  • Andrew Michalski


Fractured shales of the Brunswick Formation provide a major aquifer in the most industrialized region of New Jersey. Numerous cases of ground water contamination have been documented in this formation. However, effectiveness of monitoring and remediation efforts is often hampered by the use of inappropriate concepts regarding ground water flow controls in this complex aquifer system. One such concept presumes that near-vertical fractures parallel to the strike of beds provide principal passages for the flow and produce an anisotropic response to pumping stress. Field evidence presented in this paper confirms that the Brunswick Formation hosts a gently dipping, multiunit, leaky aquifer system that consists of thin water-bearing units and thick intervening aquitards. The water-bearing units are associated with major bedding partings and/or intensely fractured seams. Layered heterogeneity of such a dipping multiunit aquifer system produces an anisotropic flow pattern with preferential flow along the strike of beds. Within the weathered zone, the permeability of the water-bearing units can be greatly reduced. The commonly used hydrogeologic model of the Brunswick as a one-aquifer system, sometimes with vaguely defined “shallow” and “deep” zones, often leads to the development of inadvertent cross-flows within monitoring wells. If undetected, cross-flows may promote contaminant spread into deeper units and impair the quality of hydrogeologic data. Hydrogeologic characterization of the Brunswick shales at any given site should be aimed primarily at identification of the major water-bearing and aquitard units. Recommended techniques for this characterization include fluid logging and other in-well tests.