Past activities at Galena Airport, a U.S. Air Force Base in Galena, Alaska, have resulted in ground-water contamination by volatile organic compounds. The primary contaminants are petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons. The U.S. Geological Survey and Earth Tech, in cooperation with the Air Force Center for Environmental Excellence, conducted investigations at Galena Airport from August to October 2002 using polyethylene diffusion bag samplers and borehole flow-meter testing to examine the vertical distribution of ground-water contamination in selected wells. This investigation was limited to the vicinity of building 1845 and to the area between building 1845 and the Yukon River. In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey was asked to determine whether additional wells are needed to more clearly define the nature and extent of the ground-water contamination at the Air Force Base.
Little or no vertical water movement occurred under ambient conditions in the wells tested at Galena Airport, Alaska, in August 2002. All of the ambient vertical flows detected in wells were at rates less than the quantitative limit of the borehole flow meter (0.03 gallons per minute). In wells 06-MW-07 and 10-MW-01, no vertical flow was detected. In wells where ambient flow was detected, the direction of flow was downward.
In general, concentrations of volatile organic compounds detected in the low-flow samples from wells at Galena Airport were approximately the same concentrations detected in the closest polyethylene diffusion bag sample for a wide variety of volatile organic compounds. The data indicate that the polyethylene diffusion bag sample results are consistent with the low-flow sample results.
Vertical profiling of selected wells using polyethylene diffusion bag samplers at Galena Airport showed that from September 30 to October 1, 2002, little vertical change occurred in volatile organic compound concentrations along the screen length despite the fact that little or no vertical flow was measured in most of the tested wells in August 2002. Two of the wells (10-MW-03 and 06-MW-01) had slightly greater vertical concentration variation for some constituents. In these wells, the contaminant depth probably is lithologically influenced.
The close match between concentrations measured in polyethylene diffusion bag and low-flow samples indicates that the bag samples accurately represent the distribution of volatile organic compounds in the wells. It is unclear, however, whether the distribution of volatile organic compounds in the wells, as indicated by the bag samplers, represents contaminant distributions in the aquifer or transient movement within the wells. The probable change in well hydraulics between August and late September to October indicates that the relatively uniform vertical distribution of volatile organic compounds in some of the wells may represent in-well mixing. This uncertainty could be clarified by the installation and sampling of well clusters at various times of the year. Additional insight into the vertical distribution of contamination and flow possibly could be obtained by conducting flow-meter tests and collecting polyethylene diffusion bag samples from selected wells at different times of the year.
The westernmost contaminant plume at Million Gallon Hill appears to be surrounded by sufficient monitoring wells to detect changes in the plume extent; however, the installation of additional wells at Galena Airport has the potential to provide additional information on the extent of ground-water contamination in the remaining plumes. The additional information to be gained includes better definition of the vertical and lateral extents of the plumes and better definition of the ground-water flow directions.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Flow-Meter and Passive Diffusion Bag Tests and Potential Influences on the Vertical Distribution of Contaminants in Wells at Galena Airport, Galena, Alaska, August to October 2002