During four periods from April 2002 to June 2003, pore-water samples were taken from river sediment within a gaining reach (Mill Pond) of the Sudbury River in Ashland, Massachusetts, with a temporary pushpoint sampler to determine whether this device is an effective tool for measuring small-scale spatial variations in concentrations of volatile organic compounds and selected field parameters (specific conductance and dissolved oxygen concentration). The pore waters sampled were within a subsurface plume of volatile organic compounds extending from the nearby Nyanza Chemical Waste Dump Superfund site to the river. Samples were collected from depths of 10, 30, and 60 centimeters below the sediment surface along two 10-meter-long, parallel transects extending into the river. Twenty-five volatile organic compounds were detected at concentrations ranging from less than 1 microgram per liter to hundreds of micrograms per liter (for example, 1,2-dichlorobenzene, 490 micrograms per liter; cis-1,2-dichloroethene, 290 micrograms per liter). The most frequently detected compounds were either chlorobenzenes or chlorinated ethenes. Many of the compounds were detected only infrequently. Quality-control sampling indicated a low incidence of trace concentrations of contaminants. Additional samples collected with passive-water-diffusion-bag samplers yielded results comparable to those collected with the pushpoint sampler and to samples collected in previous studies at the site.
The results demonstrate that the pushpoint sampler can yield distinct samples from sites in close proximity; in this case, sampling sites were 1 meter apart horizontally and 20 or 30 centimeters apart vertically. Moreover, the pushpoint sampler was able to draw pore water when inserted to depths as shallow as 10 centimeters below the sediment surface without entraining surface water. The simplicity of collecting numerous samples in a short time period (routinely, 20 to 30 per day) validates the use of a pushpoint sampler as a highly effective tool for mapping the extent of contaminated subsurface plumes, determining their constituents and loadings, and performing technical studies that may be relevant to bioremediation and other activities.