Crude oil spilled from a pipeline break in a remote area of north-central Minnesota has contaminated a shallow glacial outwash aquifer. Part of the oil was sprayed over a large area to the west of the pipeline and part of it accumulated in an oil body that floats at the water table to the east of the point of discharge. Total dissolved organic carbon (TDOC) concentrations in shallow groundwater collected in the oil spray area reach 16 mg/l. This is nearly an order of magnitude higher than the TDOC concentrations of native groundwater (???2-3 mg/l). The additional TDOC derives from the partial degradation of petroleum residues deposited at the land surface and transported to the aquifer by vertical recharge. In the vicinity of the oil body, TDOC concentrations in groundwater are 48 mg/l, 58% of the TDOC being composed of non-volatile organic C. The majority of the volatile DOC (63%) is a mixture of low-molecular-weight saturated, aromatic and alicyclic hydrocarbons derived from the oil. Downgradient from the oil body along the direction of groundwater flow, concentrations of all measured constituents of the TDOC pool decrease. Concentrations begin to decline most rapidly, however, in the zone where dissolved O2 concentrations begin to increase, ???50 m downgradient from the leading edge of the oil. Within the anoxic zone near the oil body, removal rates of isometric monoaromatic hydrocarbons vary widely. This indicates that the removal processes are mediated mainly by microbiological activity. Molecular and spectroscopic characterization of the TDOC and its spatial and temporal variation provide evidence of the importance of biogeochemical processes in attenuating petroleum contaminants in this perturbed subsurface environment. ?? 1993.
Additional publication details
Crude oil in a shallow sand and gravel aquifer-II. Organic geochemistry