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Elemental chemistry of sand-boil discharge used to trace variable pathways of seepage beneath levees during the 2011 Mississippi River flood.

Davidson, Gregg R., Rigby, J. R., Pennington, Dean, Cizdziel, James V.
Applied geochemistry 2013 v.28 pp. 62
aquifers, chemical composition, floods, groundwater, risk, river water, rivers, sand, seepage, water quality, weathering, wells, Mississippi, Mississippi River
Shortly after peak stage of the 2011 Mississippi River flood, water samples were collected from the river, from sand boils near the toe of the levee, and from actively flowing relief wells over a 55 km stretch north of Vicksburg, MS. Two distinct pathways for seepage under the levee were identified based on the elemental composition of water samples. Sand boil discharge was similar to water from relief wells only at a location where the levee sits on ancient channel fill deposits. Seepage at this site is forced along a deeper pathway beneath the fine-grained channel fill. Where the levee sits on sandy point bar deposits, shallow flow beneath the levee is unimpeded. The chemical composition of discharge from sand boils at these sites was clearly not just river water, nor a simple mixture of river and groundwater, but appears to reflect unique weathering or redox interactions occurring within the upper portion of the alluvial aquifer. Distinguishing shallow and deep seepage pathways may prove useful for evaluating site specific risk of levee failure.