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.
MS4 Seismic Stratigraphy Along Three Multichannel Seismic Reflection Profiles off Delaware's Coast (Front and Back Pages)
Three multichannel, common-depth-point (CDP), seismic reflection profiles were run off Delaware's coast for the Delaware Geological Survey. Their purposes were (1) to determine the depth to the unconformity (post-rift unconformity) at the base of the nearshore submerged Coastal Plain sedimentary rocks and (2) to relate onshore with offshore
geology as interpreted from the U. S. Geological Survey's network of regional seismic profiles. In addition, the nearshore profiles reveal considerable detail about the nature of the Neogene lithostratigraphic units and aquifers within them that supply water to the coastal communities of Delaware and Maryland (Miller, 1971; Weigle and Achmad, 1982).
Thousands of homeowners in Delaware currently rely on individual wells and water systems to provide water. In addition, hundreds of new wells and systems are constructed each year to provide water for those not served by public water systems. Methods used to construct water wells in Delaware are discussed in DGS Information Series No. 2 (Domestic Water Well
Construction). Domestic water systems are described herein.
Because of its "renewability" water is unique among earth resources that sustain and enhance life. No other mineral resource that we extract on a long-term and continuous basis can be counted on for at least some degree of replenishment within a human lifetime. This attribute allows a great deal of flexibility in management of the resource. In Delaware local rainfall, approximately 40" to 44" per year, renews part or all of our water supply on a regular basis. However, not all of the rain that falls is available for use. From this total rainfall must be subtracted the water that evaporates (about 20"/ year), the amount that is used by plants (about 3"/year), and the amount that runs overland to surface streams during storms (about 4"-5"/year). The remainder, approximately 13" to 15" is Delaware's bank of water for the year. This water is stored in a system of ground-water reservoirs, or aquifers, that underlie most of the State. Not only do these ground-water reservoirs provide water to wells but they also maintain the flow in surface streams during times of no rainfall. Streamflow between rainfall events is nothing more than the discharge of
excess ground water.
The storage and movement of ground water depends on the types of rocks and associated
interconnected spaces in which the water occurs. The Piedmont Province in northernmost
Delaware is underlain by crystalline rocks. Because of the massiveness and hardness of such
rocks, they yield little or no interstitial water to wells. Water is stored in and moves through fractures, cracks, and solution cavities. The amount of water available depends on the number and size of openings, and the degree to which they are interconnected. Wells drilled in the Piedmont range from 100 to 400 feet in depth and yields are highly variable over very short distances.
In the Coastal Plain, the rest of the State, ground water is stored and transmitted in spaces between adjacent rock particles. As much as 30 percent of the rock mass may be saturated. Unconsolidated rocks are analogous to a bathtub filled with sand into which water is poured. The Coastal Plain consists of sandy water-bearing units referred to as aquifers interlayered between non-water-bearing units. Wells constructed for domestic use range in depth from 15 feet to 500 feet. Yields are generally much greater than those obtained from the crystalline rocks of the Piedmont. In general, minimum well yields of 3 to 5 gallons per minute are adequate for most domestic water supply systems.
Thickness, Elevation of the Base, and Transmissivity Grids of the Unconfined Aquifer of Sussex County (Data Product No. 06-01)
The unconfined portion of the Columbia aquifer is a key hydrologic unit in Delaware, supplying water to many agricultural, domestic, industrial, public, and irrigation wells. The aquifer is recharged through infiltration of precipitation and is the source of fair-weather stream flow and water in deeper confined aquifers. The aquifer occurs in permeable sediments ranging in age from Miocene to Recent. Over most of Delaware, the top of the unconfined or water-table portion of the Columbia aquifer occurs at depths less than 10 feet below land surface. Because of the permeable character of the aquifer and its near-surface location, the unconfined aquifer is highly susceptible to contamination.
The occurrences of earthquakes in northern Delaware and adjacent areas of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey are well documented by both historical and instrumental records. Over 550 earthquakes have been documented within 150 miles of Delaware since 1677. One of the earliest known events occurred in 1737 and was felt in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. The largest known event in Delaware occurred in the Wilmington area in 1871 with an intensity of VII (Modified Mercalli Scale). The second largest event occurred in the Delaware area in 1973 (magnitude 3.8 and maximum Modified Mercalli Intensity of V-VI). The epicenter for this event was placed in or near the Delaware River. Sixty-nine earthquakes have been documented or suspected in Delaware since 1871.
Ground-water recharge potential maps show land areas characterized by their abilities to transmit water from land surface to a depth of 20 feet. The basic methods for mapping ground-water recharge potential are presented in Delaware Geological Survey Open File Report No. 34 (Andres, 1991) and were developed specifically for the geohydrologic conditions present in the Coastal Plain of Delaware. The digital data for this layer comes from DGS Digital Data Product DP 02-01, Digital Ground-Water Recharge Potential Map Data For Kent and Sussex Counties, Delaware: A. S. Andres, C. S. Howard, T. A. Keyser, L. T. Wang, 2002.
Dark-gray to gray silty clay to clayey silt that contains abundant fragments of lignite; grades downward into a very fine to fine sand with scattered and discontinuous thin beds of clayey silt with lignite fragments. Thickness ranges from 20 to 50 ft. Updip in the vicinity of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Magothy fills channels incised into the Potomac Formation and is discontinuous in its extent. Interpreted to have been deposited in coastal to nearshore environments.
Light- to dark-gray, very micaceous, glauconitic, very silty fine- to very fine-grained sand to fine sandy silt. Ranges from 20 to 120 ft in thickness. Marine in origin.
Light-gray to white, micaceous, slightly silty to silty, fine-grained, slightly glauconitic quartz sand. In outcrop, it is extensively burrowed with Ophiomorpha burrows. Ranges from 20 to 50 ft in thickness. On the cross-section, the Englishtown is shown only where the sands are well developed. Interpreted to be nearshore marine to tidal flat in origin.
Greenish-gray, slightly silty, fine-grained glauconitic quartz sand. Glauconite comprises 30 to 40 percent of the sand fraction. Ranges from 10 to 50 ft in thickness. Extensively burrowed. Interpreted to be marine in origin.
Generally a calcareous silt that is slightly to moderately sandy and slightly to moderately clayey. Sand is fine to very fine grained composed of about 50 percent glauconite, 40 percent peloids, and 10 percent quartz. Sediment is laminated, marked by varying amounts of clay and sand. Peloids are yellow to yellowish-brown flat to ovoid pellets that are calcareous and may contain flakes of chitin and grains of glauconite or quartz. Scattered shell fragments are present but form a minor constituent of the sediment. Uniformly dark-greenish-gray, slightly lighter in color than the overlying Hornerstown Formation. 10 to 20 ft thick.
Consists of 30 ft of silty, shelly, fine sands that are commonly glauconitic (Benson and Spoljaric, 1996). Deposited during the latest Paleocene to early Eocene (Benson and Spoljaric, 1996). Based on microfossils (unpublished DGS file data), it can be characterized as an open shelf deposit.
Glauconitic clayey silt and clay, with some glauconite sand and fine glauconitic quartz sand. Deposited in the middle Eocene (Benson and Spoljaric, 1996), and is generally 60 to 70 ft thick. Based on the microfossils (unpublished DGS file data), it can be characterized as an open shelf deposit.
Dark-red, gray, pink, and white silty clay to clayey silt and very fine to medium sand beds. Beds of gray clayey silt to very fine sand that contain pieces of charcoal and lignite are common. Deposited in a fluvial setting in a tropical to subtropical environment as indicated by abundant paleosol horizons. Ranges from 20 ft updip to over 1600 ft thick in southern New Castle County.
Slightly calcareous, glauconitic, quartz sand that is medium to fine grained. Contains about 3 to 5 percent glauconite. Sand is subrounded to subangular and slightly silty with a few moderately silty zones. Scattered belemnites are present as well as a few scattered shell fragments or thin shell beds. Uniform dark olive gray or yellowish-brown where weathered. In outcrop, reported to be extensively burrowed (Owens, et al., 1970). Where it is the surficial deposit south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the Mt. Laurel can be confused with the Columbia Formation, especially where the color is similar. Can be differentiated by ubiquitous presence of glauconite and generally better sorted sands of the Mt. Laurel. Marine in origin. Ranges from 30 to 100 ft in thickness.
Glauconite sand that is silty and slightly to moderately clayey and contains scattered shell beds. Glauconite approximately 90 percent to 95 percent of the sand fraction and quartz 5 percent to 10 percent. Near the top of unit, silt-filled burrows are present. Lower, the unit is commonly laminated with silty sand and moderately clayey sand. Silt and clay matrix is calcareous. Uniformly a dark-greenish-gray. Interpreted to be marine in origin. The Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary is considered to lie within the formation. Rarely occurs in outcrop and where shown on the map is covered by colluvium along the stream valley bluffs. Ranges between 10 and 50 feet in thickness.
Glauconitic sand that ranges from slightly silty to moderately silty and slightly to moderately clayey. Dominant constituent is subrounded to subangular clear quartz sand that ranges from medium to fine grained. Fine-grained glauconite is a secondary constituent, which ranges from 5 percent in the clayey zones to 15 percent where cleaner. Towards bottom of unit, glauconite percentages increase to about 50 percent of the sand fraction. Silty and clayey zones are thin to thick laminae ranging from 0.01 to 0.5 ft thick. Olive gray to dark-yellowish-brown in zones where iron cement is present. Interpreted to be marine in origin. Rarely occurs in outcrop and is covered by colluvium along the stream valley bluffs where shown on the map. Ranges from 50 to 100 ft in thickness in the subsurface and less than 50 ft thick where it is cut by younger deposits updip.