Contaminant Fate and Transport Studies in Fractured Sedimentary Rock Aquifers at the former Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC), West Trenton, N.J.

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Contaminants associated with industry are present in groundwater in fractured-rock aquifers, posing long-term hazards to drinking-water supplies and ecosystems. The heterogeneous character of fractured rock challenges our understanding, monitoring, and remediation of such sites.

The Latest from NAWC

  • Hydraulic tomography: 3D hydraulic conductivity, fracture network, and connectivity in mudstone: Article by Tiedeman and Barrash (2019).



Since 1993, USGS has been providing technical assistance to the U.S. Navy and conducting research at the former Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) in West Trenton, N.J., where trichloroethene (TCE) has migrated in fractures and diffused into, and adsorbed onto, low-permeability mudstone strata, acting as a long-term residual source of contaminants. These studies have helped the Navy efficiently monitor the ongoing natural attenuation of TCE and improve the pump and treat system to remove contaminants and contain impacted groundwater. 

Areal view of the well field at the NAWC site

Areal map of the well locations at the former Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) site in West Trenton, New Jersey

(Public domain.)

USGS scientists studying groundwater

USGS and University at Buffalo Scientists injecting tracers to study diffusion

(Public domain.)

Research results include development of field methods to measure rates and coefficients associated with desorption, reaction, and diffusion of TCE and its degradation products in low-permeability strata (read more). In addition to research by USGS hydrologists, geochemists, and microbiologists, a broad range of studies on characterization, monitoring, and remediation of TCE in fractured rock have been conducted in collaboration with EPA, SERDP and ESTCP, academia, and private industry. 


Background information and results prior to 2017 are provided in our Archive.

Recent research findings


fume hoods

Fume hoods used for biodegradation experiments in the laboratory.


Enhancement of Trichloroethene (TCE) Biodegradation in a Simulated Groundwater System    


This laboratory study showed that when TCE and acetylene are present, addition of acetylene-fermenting bacteria can enhance bioremediation of TCE and reduce its harmful breakdown products. (Also see journal article by Mao and others, 2017. (Acetylene fuels TCE reductive dechlorination by defined Dehalococcoides/Pelobacter consortia: Environmental Science and Technology) 



USGS scientist with equipment used to inject fluids for a bioaugmentation experiment

The set up and equipment used for the bioaugmentation experiment.

USGS scientists updated research progress through presentations at the 2017 National Groundwater Association Conference on Fractured Rock and Groundwater, October 2-3, 2017, in Burlington, Vermont. Project scientists Paul Hsieh and Dan Goode served as Technical Advisors for the conference. Presentations included:

Research at NAWC was also featured by the conference keynote speaker Lee Slater (Rutgers), and in a presentation by Carl Keller (FLUTe Inc.).


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