RI76 Stratigraphy, Correlation, and Depositional Environments of the Middle to Late Pleistocene Interglacial Deposits of Southern Delaware
Rising and highstands of sea level during the middle to late Pleistocene deposited swamp to nearshore sediments along the margins of an ancestral Delaware Bay, Atlantic coastline, and tributaries to an ancestral Chesapeake Bay. These deposits are divided into three lithostratigraphic groups: the Delaware Bay Group, the Assawoman Bay Group (named herein), and the Nanticoke River Group (named herein). The Delaware Bay Group, mapped along the margins of Delaware Bay, is subdivided into the Lynch Heights Formation and the Scotts Corners Formation. The Assawoman Bay Group, recognized inland of Delaware’s Atlantic Coast, is subdivided into the Omar Formation, the Ironshire Formation, and the Sinepuxent Formation. The Nanticoke River Group, found along the margins of the Nanticoke River and its tributaries, is subdivided into the Turtle Branch Formation (named herein) and the Kent Island Formation.
Delaware Bay Group deposits consist of bay-margin coarse sand and gravel that fine upward to silt and silty sand. Beds of organic-rich mud were deposited in tidal marshes. Near the present Atlantic Coast, the Delaware Bay Group includes organic-rich muds and shelly muds deposited in lagoonal environments.
Assawoman Bay Group deposits range from very fine, silty sands to silty clays with shells deposited in back-barrier lagoons, to fine to coarse, well-sorted sands deposited in barriers and spits.
Nanticoke River Group deposits consist of coarse sand and gravel that fine upward to silty clays. Oyster shells are found associated with the clays in the Turtle Branch Formation. Organic-rich clayey silts were deposited in swamps and estuaries. Well-sorted fine sands to gravelly sands were deposited on beaches and tidal flats on the flanks of the ancestral Nanticoke River and its tributaries.
The Lynch Heights, Omar, and Turtle Branch Formations are age-equivalent units associated with highstands of sea level,which occurred at approximately 400,000 and 325,000 yrs B.P. (MIS 11 and 9, respectively). The Scotts Corners, Ironshire, Sinepuxent, and Kent Island Formations are age-equivalent units associated with highstands of sea level, which occurred between 120,000 and 80,000 yrs B.P. (MIS 5e and 5a, respectively).
Radiocarbon dates from 231 geologic samples from the offshore, coastal, and upland regions of Delaware have been compiled along with their corresponding locations and other supporting data. These data now form the Delaware Geological Survey Radiocarbon Database. The dates range from a few hundred years to approximately 40,000 yrs (40 ka) BP (before present). All dates younger than about 18,000 yrs have been calibrated using the method of Stuiver and Reimer (1993). A plot of the dates versus the elevations of the samples shows four distinct groupings: those associated with the rise of sea level during the Holocene, those from the uplands, those in modem stream valleys, and those older than the detectable range of present radiocarbon techniques. A fifth group of samples in the 20-38 ka range and from below present sea level are ambiguous and were previously used as evidence for a mid-Wisconsinan high sea stand (Milliman and Emery, 1968).
Delaware Inland Bays Tributary Total Maximum Daily Load Water-Quality Database (Data Product No. 02-02)
The Delaware Inland Bays Water-Quality Database (DIBWQDB) is used to store,
manage, and retrieve water-quality data generated by the “Nutrient Inputs as a Stressor
and Net Nutrient Flux as an Indicator of Stress Response in Delawares’ Inland Bays
Ecosystem” (CISNet) and the “Inland Bays Tributary Total Maximum Daily Load”
(IBTMDL) projects. It contains information on sampling stations, samples, and field and
laboratory analyses, queries to extract and analyze data, forms to input and edit data, a
main menu to navigate to forms and specific queries, and a few formatted report
templates. The database is in Microsoft Access 2003 format. Table, field, and table
relationship metadata are stored in the database as properties of those objects. The
software's metadata reporting options can be used to view the information.
Since 1992, the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) has compiled a geologic database known as the Delaware Offshore Geologic Inventory (DOGI) that consists of sediment samples, radiocarbon and amino acid racemization dates, seismic profiles, and vibracores taken from the near-shore and inner continental shelf in state and federal waters. Most of the 366 vibracores are stored at the DGS on-site core and sample repository.
The stratigraphy of the Coastal Plain of Delaware is discussed with emphasis placed upon an appraisal of the stratigraphic nomenclature. A revised stratigraphic column for Delaware is proposed. Rock stratigraphic units, based mainly on data from certain key wells, are described and the published names which have been or which might conceivably be applied to those units are reviewed. In each case a name is chosen and the reasons for the choice are stated. The relationships between the column established for Delaware and the recognized columns for adjacent states are considered. The rock units of the Coastal Plain of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland form an interrelated mass. However, profound facies changes do occur, particularly in the dip direction, but also along the strike. Thus, attempts to extend units established in the outcrop belt almost indefinitely into the subsurface have been unsatisfactory.
Exploration for sand resources for beach nourishment has led to an increase in the amount of geologic data available from areas offshore Delaware's Atlantic Coast. These data are in the form of cores, core logs, and seismic reflection profiles. In order to provide a geologic context for these offshore data, this cross section has been constructed from well and borehole data along Delaware's Atlantic coastline from Cape Henlopen to Fenwick Island. Placing the offshore data in geologic context is important for developing stratigraphic and geographic models for predicting the location of stratigraphic units found offshore that may yield sand suitable for beach nourishment. The units recognized onshore likely extend offshore to where they are truncated by younger units or by the present seafloor.
Since 1992, the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) has compiled a geologic database known as the Delaware Offshore Geologic Inventory (DOGI) that consists of sediment samples, radiocarbon and amino acid racemization dates, seismic profiles, and vibracores taken from the nearshore and inner continental shelf in state and federal waters. Most of the 366 vibracores are stored at the DGS on-site core and sample repository.
In the same ways as our printed publications, digital data released by the DGS represent the results of original professional research and as such are used by professionals and the public.
A geographic information system-based study was used to estimate the elevation of the water table in the Inland Bays watershed of Sussex County, Delaware, under dry, normal, and wet conditions. Evaluation of the results from multiple estimation methods indicates that a multiple linear regression method is the most viable tool to estimate the elevation of the regional water table for the Coastal Plain of Delaware. The variables used in the regression are elevation of a minimum water table and depth to the minimum water table from land surface. Minimum water table is computed from a local polynomial regression of elevations of surface water features. Correlation coefficients from the multiple linear regression estimation account for more than 90 percent of the variability observed in ground-water level data. The estimated water table is output as a GIS-ready grid with 30-m (98.43 ft) horizontal and 0.305-m (1 ft) vertical resolutions.
Because of the rapid development occurring in coastal Delaware and the importance of ground water to the economy of the area, definition of formal lithostratigraphic units hosting aquifers and confining beds serves a useful purpose for resource managers, researchers, and consultants working in the area. The Pocomoke and Manokin are artesian aquifers pumped by hundreds of domestic and dozens of public wells along the Atlantic coast in Delaware and Maryland. These aquifers are being increasingly used for public water supply. Two formal lithostratigraphic units, the Cat Hill Formation and Bethany Formation, are established to supercede the Manokin formation and Bethany formation, respectively. In Delaware, these lithostratigraphic units host important aquifers—the Manokin, which occurs in the Cat Hill Formation, and the Pocomoke, which occurs in the Bethany Formation. Composite stratotypes of these units are identified in five drillholes located near Bethany Beach, Delaware.
Water supply in the rapidly developing Lewes and Rehoboth Beach areas of coastal Sussex County in Delaware is provided by more than 80 individual public water wells and hundreds of domestic wells. Significant concerns exist about the future viability of the ground-water resource in light of contamination threats and loss of recharge areas. As part of Delaware's Source Water and Assessment Protection Program, wellhead protection areas (WHPAs) were delineated for the 15 largest public supply wells operated by three public water systems. The WHPAs are derived from analysis of results of dozens of steady-state ground-water flow simulations. The simulations were performed with a Visual MODFLOW-based 6-layer, 315,600-node model coupled with GIS-based data on land cover, ground-water recharge and resource potentials, and other base maps and aerial imagery. Because the model was operated under steady-state conditions, long-term average pumping rates were used in the model. The flow model includes four boundary types (constant head, constant flux, head-dependant flux, and no flow), with layers that represent the complex hydrogeologic conditions based on aquifer characterizations. The model is calibrated to within a 10% normalized root mean squared error of the observed water table.
Lithologic logs from 268 vibracores taken from the Delaware Atlantic offshore were evaluated for sediment type and compatibility with historical beach sediment textures. A model of sand resource evaluation, known as "stack-unit mapping" (Kempton, 1981) was applied to all of the cores, and each core was labeled by its lithology in vertical sequence. The results are shown in detailed maps of the beach-quality sand resources offshore in state and federal waters. Results show significant quantities (approximately 54 million cubic yards) of excellent beach-quality sand sources within the three-mile state limit offshore Indian River Inlet, and within the Inner Platform and Detached Shoal Field geomorphic regions. In federal waters, sand is found on Fenwick Shoal Field and farther offshore Indian River Inlet on the Outer Platform (approximately 43.6 million cubic yards combined). Most of the beach-quality sand resources are believed to be reworked tidal delta deposits of a former Indian River Inlet during periods of lower sea level. Farther south, the resources are accumulations of recent surficial sands of the inner shelf (Detached Shoal Field and Fenwick Shoal Field) showing that the geomorphic region does influence sediment quality. This study found that paleochannels and bathymetry had no relationship to grain size. Multiple cut and fill episodes contributed to the diversity in grain sizes.
The surficial Pliocene and Quaternary sedimentary deposits of the Atlantic Coastal Plain of Delaware comprise several formal and informal stratigraphic units. Their ages and the paleoenvironments they represent are interpreted on the basis of palynological and lithologic data and, to a lesser degree, on geomorphology.
Investigation of the Neogene and Quaternary geology of the Milford and Mispillion River quadrangles has identified six formations: the Calvert, Choptank, and St. Marys formations of the Chesapeake Group, the Columbia Formation, and the Lynch Heights and Scotts Comers formations of the Delaware Bay Group. Stream, swamp, marsh, shoreline, and estuarine and bay deposits of Holocene age are also recognized. The Calvert, Choptank, and St. Marys formations were deposited in inner shelf marine environments during the early to late Miocene. The Columbia Formation is of fluvial origin and was deposited during the middle Pleistocene prior to the erosion and deposition associated with the formation of the Lynch Heights Formation. The Lynch Heights Formation is of fluvial and estuarine origin and is of middle Pleistocene age. The Scotts Corners Formation was deposited in tidal, nearshore, and estuarine environments and is of late Pleistocene age. The Scotts Corners Formation and the Lynch Heights Formation are each interpreted to have been deposited during more than one cycle of sea-level rise and fall. Latest Pleistocene and Holocene deposition has occurred over the last 11,000 years.
Radiocarbon dates from 231 geologic samples from the offshore, coastal, and upland regions of Delaware have been compiled along with their corresponding locations and other supporting data. These data now form the Delaware Geological Survey Radiocarbon Database.
A multiple linear regression method was used to estimate water-table elevations under dry, normal, and wet conditions for the Coastal Plain of Delaware. The variables used in the regression are elevation of an initial water table and depth to the initial water table from land surface. The initial water table is computed from a local polynomial regression of elevations of surface-water features. Correlation coefficients from the multiple linear regression estimation account for more than 90 percent of the variability observed in ground-water level data. The estimated water table is presented in raster format as GIS-ready grids with 30-m horizontal (~98 ft) and 0.305-m (1 ft) vertical resolutions. Water-table elevation and depth are key facets in many engineering, hydrogeologic, and environmental management and regulatory decisions. Depth to water is an important factor in risk assessments, site assessments, evaluation of permit compliance data, registration of pesticides, and determining acceptable pesticide application rates. Water-table elevations are used to compute ground-water flow directions and, along with information about aquifer properties (e.g., hydraulic conductivity and porosity), are used to compute ground-water flow velocities. Therefore, obtaining an accurate representation of the water table is also crucial to the success of many hydrologic modeling efforts. Water-table elevations can also be estimated from simple linear regression on elevations of either land surface or initial water table. The goodness-of-fits of elevations estimated from these surfaces are similar to that of multiple linear regression. Visual analysis of the distributions of the differences between observed and estimated water elevations (residuals) shows that the multiple linear regression-derived surfaces better fit observations than do surfaces estimated by simple linear regression.
The Delaware Academy of Science has been instrumental in informing Delaware citizens about science and utilization of local resources. Since 1970 the annual meeting of the Delaware Academy of Science has been used as a time for presentation of ongoing research in various areas of science in the Delaware region. The proceedings of these meetings have resulted in publication of transactions of the Delaware Academy of Science. The 1976 annual meeting focused on aspects of the geology of Delaware. Members of the Delaware Geological Survey and the Geology Department at the University of Delaware contributed papers in their specific disciplines. This volume presents an overview of studies of geological features and processes of evolution of the geology of Delaware. Although this collection of papers does not represent an all-inclusive study of the subject, the selections included in this volume highlight past, present, and future trends in the study of Delaware's geology. It is hoped that the combined bibliographies of all the papers will provide a comprehensive view of the literature for further investigation into the geology of Delaware.