The U.S. Geological Survey and the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southeast investigated natural and engineered remediation of chlorinated volatile organic compound ground-water contamination at Solid Waste Management Unit 12 at the Naval Weapons Station Charleston, North Charleston, South Carolina. The primary contaminants of interest are tetrachloroethene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, trichloroethene, cis-1,2-dichloroethene, vinyl chloride, 1,1-dichloroethane, and 1,1-dichloroethene.
In general, the hydrogeology of Solid Waste Management Unit 12 consists of a surficial aquifer, composed of sand to clayey sand, overlain by dense clay that extends from about land surface to a depth of about 8 to 10 feet and substantially limits local recharge. During some months in the summer, evapotranspiration and limited local recharge result in ground-water level depressions in the forested area near wells 12MW-12S and 12MW-17S, seasonally reflecting the effects of evapotranspiration. Changes in surface-water levels following Hurricane Gaston in 2004 resulted in a substantial change in the ground-water levels at the site that, in turn, may have caused lateral shifting of the contaminant plume. Hydraulic conductivity, determined by slug tests, is higher along the axis of the plume in the downgradient part of the forests than adjacent to the plume, implying that there is some degree of lithologic control on the plume location. Hydraulic conductivity, hydraulic gradient, sulfur-hexafluoride measurements, and historical data indicate that ground-water flow rates are substantially slower in the forested area relative to upgradient areas.
The ground-water contamination, consisting of chlorinated volatile organic compounds, extends eastward in the surficial aquifer from the probable source area near a former underground storage tank. Engineered remediation approaches include a permeable reactive barrier and phytoremediation. The central part of the permeable reactive barrier along the main axis of the contaminant plume appears to be actively removing contamination; however, ground-water contamination is moving around the southern end of the permeable reactive barrier. Changes in the contaminant concentrations along the path of ground-water transport reflect a complex variety of influences. Potential influences include dechlorination, sorption and desorption, transpirative removal by trees, lateral shifting of the plume, and the presence of zones of differing concentrations possibly reflecting one or more pulse releases of contamination from the source area.
Near the source area at well 12MW-10S, volatile organic compound concentrations of cis-1,2-dichlorothene, vinyl chloride, 1,1-dichloroethane, and 1,1,1-trichloroethane continued an irregular decline, while tetrachloroethene and 1,1-dichloroethene showed marked fluctuations in concentration during 2005 and 2006. Volatile organic compound concentrations at well 12MW-03S continued to show decreasing concentrations with the June 2006 concentrations being the lowest yet recorded at that well for several volatile organic compounds. Concentration and delta carbon 13 data indicate that in the upgradient part of the plume, tetrachloroethene is being degraded to trichloroethene, which is being degraded to cis-1,2-dichloroethene, and cis-1,2-dichloroethene is accumulating faster than it is being depleted.
Ground-water volatile organic compound concentrations also changed in some wells in the forested area in the midpart of the plume. Increasing tetrachloroethene and decreasing trichloroethene and 1,1-dichloroethene concentrations were observed at wells 12MW-05S and 12MW-29S, possibly reflecting a lateral shift in the axis of the contamination plume or an advancing contamination pulse. Substantial decreases in contamination occur in the forested area downgradient from well 12MW-05S. Probable major loss mechanisms in this area include evapotranspiration and sorption.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Investigation of Ground-Water Contamination at Solid Waste Management Unit 12, Naval Weapons Station Charleston, North Charleston, South Carolina