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To explore the impact of a 35 million-year-old crater on today's drinking water supply in Hampton, Va., the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is drilling a big hole in NASA's backyard this summer.
NASA Langley at Hampton, Va., sits near the edge of a 51-mile-wide impact crater created when a meteor or comet slammed into the ocean near the present-day mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The impact severely disrupted the rock units that today are important aquifers providing drinking water to the Hampton Roads area. Large areas within the crater are unsuitable for future water-supply development.
"People living in southeastern Virginia are affected by this ancient cataclysm daily," said Greg Gohn, USGS Chief of the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater Project. "Drilling this exploratory bore hole and others in the next few years will help in understanding how to best develop and manage the region's ground-water supply."
This USGS research effort, hosted by NASA, involves drilling a 2,700-foot-deep hole in the Earth, bringing up underground sediment and rock for analysis, and setting off underground, firecracker-like blasts to perform a seismic reflection survey across the crater's margin. Drilling will continue throughout the summer and the seismic survey will begin in mid-August.
Some of the data gathered by the scientists will be incorporated into the regional groundwater flow model that was developed by USGS water resources specialists in Virginia. Results of the project, which is supported and partially funded by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VA DEQ), will assist local and state water resources managers in making better decisions concerning the availability and use of groundwater, an important water supply in southeastern Virginia.
(Source: U.S. Geological Survey)