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Importance of closely spaced vertical sampling in delineating chemical and microbiological gradients in groundwater studies

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology

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DOI: 10.1016/0169-7722(91)90032-V

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Abstract

Vertical gradients of selected chemical constituents, bacterial populations, bacterial activity and electron acceptors were investigated for an unconfined aquifer contaminated with nitrate and organic compounds on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.A. Fifteen-port multilevel sampling devices (MLS's) were installed within the contaminant plume at the source of the contamination, and at 250 and 2100 m downgradient from the source. Depth profiles of specific conductance and dissolved oxygen at the downgradient sites exhibited vertical gradients that were both steep and inversely related. Narrow zones (2-4 m thick) of high N2O and NH4+ concentrations were also detected within the contaminant plume. A 27-fold change in bacterial abundance; a 35-fold change in frequency of dividing cells (FDC), an indicator of bacterial growth; a 23-fold change in 3H-glucose uptake, a measure of heterotrophic activity; and substantial changes in overall cell morphology were evident within a 9-m vertical interval at 250 m downgradient. The existence of these gradients argues for the need for closely spaced vertical sampling in groundwater studies because small differences in the vertical placement of a well screen can lead to incorrect conclusions about the chemical and microbiological processes within an aquifer.Vertical gradients of selected chemical constituents, bacterial populations, bacterial activity and electron acceptors were investigated for an unconfined aquifer contaminated with nitrate and organic compounds on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. Fifteen-port multilevel sampling devices (MLS's) were installed within the contaminant plume at the source of the contamination, and at 250 and 2100 m downgradient from the source. Depth profiles of specific conductance and dissolved oxygen at the downgradient sites exhibited vertical gradients that were both steep and inversely related. Narrow zones (2-4 m thick) of high N2O and NH4+ concentrations were also detected within the contaminant plume. A 27-fold change in bacterial abundance; a 35-fold change in frequency of dividing cells (FDC), an indicator of bacterial growth; a 23-fold change in 3H-glucose uptake, a measure of heterotrophic activity; and substantial changes in overall cell morphology were evident within a 9-m vertical interval at 250 m downgradient. The existence of these gradients argues for the need for closely spaced vertical sampling in ground-water studies because small differences in the vertical placement of a well screen can lead to incorrect conclusions about the chemical and microbiological processes within an aquifer.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Importance of closely spaced vertical sampling in delineating chemical and microbiological gradients in groundwater studies
Series title:
Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
DOI:
10.1016/0169-7722(91)90032-V
Volume
7
Issue:
3
Year Published:
1991
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
First page:
285
Last page:
300
Number of Pages:
16