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High-resolution delineation of chlorinated volatile organic compounds in a dipping, fractured mudstone: depth- and strata-dependent spatial variability from rock-core sampling

October 12, 2014

Synthesis of rock-core sampling and chlorinated volatile organic compound (CVOC) analysis at five coreholes, with hydraulic and water-quality monitoring and a detailed hydrogeologic framework, was used to characterize the fine-scale distribution of CVOCs in dipping, fractured mudstones of the Lockatong Formation of Triassic age, of the Newark Basin in West Trenton, New Jersey. From these results, a refined conceptual model for more than 55 years of migration of CVOCs and depth- and strata-dependent rock-matrix contamination was developed. Industrial use of trichloroethene (TCE) at the former Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) from 1953 to 1995 resulted in dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) TCE and dissolved TCE and related breakdown products, including other CVOCs, in underlying mudstones. Shallow highly weathered and fractured strata overlie unweathered, gently dipping, fractured strata that become progressively less fractured with depth. The unweathered lithology includes black highly fractured (fissile) carbon-rich strata, gray mildly fractured thinly layered (laminated) strata, and light-gray weakly fractured massive strata. CVOC concentrations in water samples pumped from the shallow weathered and highly fractured strata remain elevated near residual DNAPL TCE, but dilution by uncontaminated recharge, and other natural and engineered attenuation processes, have substantially reduced concentrations along flow paths removed from sources and residual DNAPL. CVOCs also were detected in most rock-core samples in source areas in shallow wells. In many locations, lower aqueous concentrations, compared to rock core concentrations, suggest that CVOCs are presently back-diffusing from the rock matrix. Below the weathered and highly fractured strata, and to depths of at least 50 meters (m), groundwater flow and contaminant transport is primarily in bedding-plane-oriented fractures in thin fissile high-carbon strata, and in fractured, laminated strata of the gently dipping mudstones. Despite more than 18 years of pump and treat (P&T) remediation, and natural attenuation processes, CVOC concentrations in aqueous samples pumped from these deeper strata remain elevated in isolated intervals. DNAPL was detected in one borehole during coring at a depth of 27 m. In contrast to core samples from the weathered zone, concentrations in core samples from deeper unweathered and unfractured strata are typically below detection. However, high CVOC concentrations were found in isolated samples from fissile black carbon-rich strata and fractured gray laminated strata. Aqueous-phase concentrations were correspondingly high in samples pumped from these strata via short-interval wells or packer-isolated zones in long boreholes. A refined conceptual site model considers that prior to P&T remediation groundwater flow was primarily subhorizontal in the higher-permeability near surface strata, and the bulk of contaminant mass was shallow. CVOCs diffused into these fractured and weathered mudstones. DNAPL and high concentrations of CVOCs migrated slowly down in deeper unweathered strata, primarily along isolated dipping bedding-plane fractures. After P&T began in 1995, using wells open to both shallow and deep strata, downward transport of dissolved CVOCs accelerated. Diffusion of TCE and other CVOCs from deeper fractures penetrated only a few centimeters into the unweathered rock matrix, likely due to sorption of CVOCs on rock organic carbon. Remediation in the deep, unweathered strata may benefit from the relatively limited migration of CVOCs into the rock matrix. Synthesis of rock core sampling from closely spaced boreholes with geophysical logging and hydraulic testing improves understanding of the controls on CVOC delineation and informs remediation design and monitoring.

Publication Year 2014
Title High-resolution delineation of chlorinated volatile organic compounds in a dipping, fractured mudstone: depth- and strata-dependent spatial variability from rock-core sampling
DOI 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2014.10.005
Authors Daniel J. Goode, Thomas E. Imbrigiotta, Pierre J. Lacombe
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
Index ID 70132466
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center; Toxic Substances Hydrology Program