In 1996, a field-scale phytoremediation demonstration project was initiated and managed by the U.S. Air Force at a site in western Fort Worth, Texas, using a plantation of 1-year-old stems harvested from branches of eastern cottonwoods during the dormant season (whips) and a plantation of 1-year-old eastern cottonwood seedlings (calipers). The primary objective of the demonstration project was to determine the effectiveness of eastern cottonwoods at reducing the mass of dissolved trichloroethene transported within an alluvial aquifer. The U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force, to determine water-level variations and their effects on tree growth and mortality and on the biogeochemical system at the phytoremediation site. As part of the study, water-level and water-quality data were collected throughout the duration of the project.
This report presents water-level variations at periodic sampling events; data from August 1996 to January 2003 are presented in this report. Water levels are affected by aquifer properties, precipitation, drawdown attributable to the trees in the study area, and irrigation. This report also evaluates the effects of ground-water depth on tree growth and mortality rates and on the biogeochemical system including subsurface oxidation-reduction processes.
Overall, both whips and calipers showed a substantial increase in height, canopy diameter, and trunk diameter over the first 3 years of the study. By the fifth growing season (September 2000), the height of the calipers varied predictably with height decreasing with increasing depth to ground water. Percent mortality was relatively constant at about 25 percent in the whip plantation in January 2003 where ground-water levels were less than 10 feet below land surface during the drought in September 2000. The mortality rate increased where the ground-water levels were greater than 10 feet below land surface and approached 90 percent where ground-water levels were between 12 and 13 feet.
A decrease in molar ratio of trichloroethene to cis-dichloroethene was measured in ground water within and downgradient from the planted area over time. Decreases in these ratios appeared to be related to ground-water depth. The molar ratios of trichloroethene to cis-dichloroethene during the third growing season were relatively constant, between 3.0 and 4.0, in samples collected from wells across the site. By the end of the fifth growing season the lowest ratio was measured in areas where ground-water depth was less than 10 feet below land surface; these same areas had the lowest dissolved oxygen concentrations (0.93 to 1.7 milligrams per liter) and the highest dissolved organic carbon concentrations (1.6 to 1.8 milligrams per liter). This indicates that between the third and fifth growing seasons, a labile fraction of dissolved organic carbon had been introduced into the aquifer by the planted trees that was capable of stimulating reductive dechlorination of trichloroethene.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water-level variations and their effects on tree growth and mortality and on the biogeochemical system at the phytoremediation demonstration site in Fort Worth, Texas, 1996-2003