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Crude oil metabolites in groundwater at two spill sites

March 24, 2016

Two groundwater plumes in north central Minnesota with residual crude oil sources have 20 to 50 mg/L of nonvolatile dissolved organic carbon (NVDOC). These values are over 10 times higher than benzene and two to three times higher than Diesel Range Organics in the same wells. On the basis of previous work, most of the NVDOC consists of partial transformation products from the crude oil. Monitoring data from 1988 to 2015 at one of the sites located near Bemidji, MN show that the plume of metabolites is expanding toward a lakeshore located 335 m from the source zone. Other mass balance studies of the site have demonstrated that the plume expansion is driven by the combined effect of continued presence of the residual crude oil source and depletion of the electron accepting capacity of solid phase iron oxide and hydroxides on the aquifer sediments. These plumes of metabolites are not covered by regulatory monitoring and reporting requirements in Minnesota and other states. Yet, a review of toxicology studies indicates that polar metabolites of crude oil may pose a risk to aquatic and mammalian species. Together the results suggest that at sites where residual sources are present, monitoring of NVDOC may be warranted to evaluate the fates of plumes of hydrocarbon transformation products.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2016
Title Crude oil metabolites in groundwater at two spill sites
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12419
Authors Barbara A. Bekins, Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, Melinda L. Erickson, Ross Steenson, Kevin A. Thorn
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Series Number
Index ID 70174999
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Research Program - Western Branch