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We investigated the groundwater system of the Chesapeake Bay impact structure by analyzing the pore-water chemistry in cores taken from a 1766-m-deep drill hole 10 km north of Cape Charles, Virginia. Pore water was extracted using high-speed centrifuges from over 100 cores sampled from a 1300 m section of the drill hole. The pore-water samples were analyzed for major cations and anions, stable isotopes of water and sulfate, dissolved and total carbon, and bioavailable iron. The results reveal a broad transition between freshwater and saline water from 100 to 500 m depth in the postimpact sediment section, and an underlying synimpact section that is almost entirely filled with brine. The presence of brine in the lowermost postimpact section and the trend in dissolved chloride with depth suggest a transport process dominated by molecular diffusion and slow, compaction-driven, upward flow. Major ion results indicate residual effects of diagenesis from heating, and a pre-impact origin for the brine. High levels of dissolved organic carbon (6–95 mg/L) and the distribution of electron acceptors indicate an environment that may be favorable for microbial activity throughout the drilled section. The concentration and extent of the brine is much greater than had previously been observed, suggesting that its occurrence may be common in the inner crater. However, groundwater-flow conditions in the structure may reduce the saltwater-intrusion hazard associated with the brine.

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