Oaks (Quercus velutina Lam.) growing over a shallow aquifer contaminated by chlorinated hydrocarbons were studied to determine if it was possible to estimate the approximate year that contamination began. The annual rings of some trees downgradient from the contaminant release site contained elevated concentrations of chloride possibly derived from dechlorination of contaminants. Additionally, a radial-growth decline began in these trees at approximately the same time that chloride became elevated. Growth did not decline in trees that contained smaller concentrations of chloride. The source of elevated chloride and the corresponding reductions in tree growth could not be explained by factors other than contamination. On the basis of tree-ring evidence alone, the release occurred in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Contaminant release at a second location apparently occurred in the mid- to late 1970s, suggesting that the area was used for disposal for at least 5 years and possibly longer. Copyright ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.