USGS Begins Drilling ‘Sentinel’ Wells in New Mexico

New wells will provide early alerts for groundwater contamination

USGS Groundwater Drilling Wells Contamination Albuquerque New Mexico

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began drilling “sentinel” wells at the first of three locations in the Trumbull Village neighborhood in Albuquerque, N.M., to provide early alerts for groundwater contamination.

These new sentinel wells will provide early warning if there is a northeastward movement of the Kirtland Air Force Base Bulk Fuels Facility plume, and would provide Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) and Air Force officials lead time to implement plans to protect nearby groundwater drinking water supply wells.

A sentinel well is a groundwater monitoring well located between a known area of groundwater contamination and drinking water supply wells. The purpose of a sentinel well is to provide advanced warning of movement of groundwater contamination toward the drinking water supply wells.

During March and April 2013, USGS drilled a similar sentinel well, funded by ABCWUA, near the corner of Trumbull Avenue SE and Mesilla Street SE.

This year, USGS will be drilling at three locations in the Trumbull Village neighborhood: on the north side of the Cesar Chavez Community Center; near the eastern end of Phil Chacon Park; and in the parking lot at Trumbull Park. This work is being funded by the Air Force.

“USGS scientists will be drilling for approximately 12 hours a day, from about 7 a.m. to about 7 p.m. We expect to be done with the drilling in late December 2014 or early January 2015,” said Nathan Myers, USGS scientist in charge of the project.

The equipment includes a drill rig, two large trailers, a water truck and smaller vehicles. At each drill site, the drilling equipment and supplies will temporarily occupy a space that is 60 to 100 ft wide and 120 to 150 ft long. After the drilling is complete, wells at each site will be enclosed below ground in locked steel vaults. Disruptions to traffic are not anticipated, but some of the parking spaces in the Trumbull Park parking lot will be unavailable during drilling. After completion, all the parking spaces at Trumbull Park will be open.

During drilling, engine noise from the diesel engines on the drill rig and noise from the equipment that separates the drill bit cuttings from the drilling mud may be audible. USGS scientists will use sound-muffling blankets to suppress noise and will monitor noise levels to ensure they are in compliance with a city of Albuquerque-issued noise permit. 

U.S. Geological Survey

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