Hydrogeology of the Potsdam Sandstone in Northern New York

Williams, John H.; Reynolds, Richard J.; Franzi, David A.; Romanowicz, Edwin A.; Paillet, Frederick L.
December 2010
Canadian Water Resources Journal/Revue Canadienne des Ressources;Winter2010, Vol. 35 Issue 4, p399
Academic Journal
The Potsdam Sandstone of Cambrian age forms a transboundary aquifer that extends across northern New York and into southern Quebec. The Potsdam Sandstone is a gently dipping sequence of arkose, subarkose, and orthoquartzite that unconformably overlies Precambrian metamorphic bedrock. The Potsdam irregularly grades upward over a thickness of 450 m from a heterogeneous feldspathic and argillaceous rock to a homogeneous, quartz-rich and matrix-poor rock. The hydrogeological framework of the Potsdam Sandstone was investigated through an analysis of records from 1,500 wells and geophysical logs from 40 wells, and through compilation of GIS coverages of bedrock and surficial geology, examination of bedrock cores, and construction of hydrogeological sections. The upper several metres of the sandstone typically is weathered and fractured and, where saturated, readily transmits groundwater. Bedding-related fractures in the sandstone commonly form sub-horizontal flow zones of relatively high transmissivity. The vertical distribution of sub-horizontal flow zones is variable; spacings of less than 10 m are common. Transmissivity of individual flow zones may be more than 100 m2/d but typically is less than 10 m2/d. High angle fractures, including joints and faults, locally provide vertical hydraulic connection between flow zones. Hydraulic head gradients in the aquifer commonly are downward; a laterally extensive series of sub-horizontal flow zones serve as drains for the groundwater flow system. Vertical hydraulic head differences between shallow and deep flow zones range from 1 m to more than 20 m. The maximum head differences are in recharge areas upgradient from the area where the Chateauguay and Chazy Rivers, and their tributaries, have cut into till and bedrock. Till overlies the sandstone in much of the study area; its thickness is generally greatest in the western part, where it may exceed 50 m. A discontinuous belt of bedrock pavements stripped of glacial drift extends across the eastern part of the study area; the largest of these is Altona Flat Rock. Most recharge to the sandstone aquifer occurs in areas of thin, discontinuous till and exposed bedrock; little recharge occurs in areas where this unit is overlain by thick till and clay. Discharge from the sandstone aquifer provides stream and river baseflow and is the source of many springs. A series of springs that are used for municipal bottled water and fish-hatchery supply discharge from 1,000 to 5,000 L/min adjacent to several tributaries east of the Chateauguay River. The major recharge areas for the Chateauguay springs are probably upgradient to the southeast, where the till cover is thin or absent.


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