A process-based methodology was used to compare the vulnerability of public supply wells tapping seven study areas in four hydrologically distinct regional aquifers to volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination. This method considers (1) contributing areas and travel times of groundwater flowpaths converging at individual supply wells, (2) the oxic and/or anoxic conditions encountered along each flowpath, and (3) the combined effects of hydrodynamic dispersion and contaminant- and oxic/anoxic-specific biodegradation. Contributing areas and travel times were assessed using particle tracks generated from calibrated regional groundwater flow models. These results were then used to estimate VOC concentrations relative to an unspecified initial concentration (C/C0) at individual public supply wells. The results show that the vulnerability of public supply wells to VOC contamination varies widely between different regional aquifers. Low-recharge rates, long travel times, and the predominantly oxic conditions characteristic of Basin and Range aquifers in the western United States leads to lower vulnerability to VOCs, particularly to petroleum hydrocarbons such as benzene and toluene. On the other hand, high recharge rates and short residence times characteristic of the glacial aquifers of the eastern United States leads to greater vulnerability to VOCs. These differences lead to distinct patterns of C/C0 values estimated for public supply wells characteristic of each aquifer, information that can be used by resource managers to develop monitoring plans based on relative vulnerability, to locate new public supply wells, or to make land-use management decisions. Journal compilation ?? 2010 National Ground Water Association. No claim to original US government works.
Additional publication details
Relative vulnerability of public supply wells to VOC contamination in hydrologically distinct regional aquifers