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Methodology for applying monitored natural attenuation to petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated ground-water systems with examples from South Carolina

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4161

Prepared in cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
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Abstract

Natural attenuation processes such as dispersion, advection, and biogradation serve to decrease concentrations of disssolved contaminants as they are transported in all ground-water systems.  However, the efficiency of these natural attenuation processes and the degree to which they help attain remediation goals, varies considerably from site to site.  This report provides a methodology for quantifying various natural attenuation mechanisms.  This methodology incorporates information on (1) concentrations of contaminants in space and/or time; (2) ambient reduction/oxidation (redox) conditions; (3) rates and directions of ground-water flow; (4) rates of contaminant biodegradation; and (5) demographic considerations, such as the presence of nearby receptor exposure points or property boundaries.  This document outlines the hydrologic, geochemical, and biologic data needed to assess the efficiency of natural attenuation, provides a screening tool for making preliminary assessments, and provides examples of how to determine when natural attenuation can be a useful component of site remediation at leaking underground storage tank sites.

At a site in the Piedmont Physiographic Province (Laurens, South Carolina), hydrologic and water-chemistry data indicate that the natural attenuation capacity for benzene is approximately 5 percent per foot of flowpath.  As a result, benzene concentrations would decrease from about 28,000 micrograms per liter in ground water at the source area to less than 5 micrograms per liter 200 feet downgradient and prior to discharging to a stream.  Because of this rapid attenuation, contaminants do not presently impact the stream downgradient of the site.  In contrast, at a site in the coastal Plain Physiographic Province (Charleston, South Carolina), hydrologic and water-chemistry data indicate that, even thought the site has a substantial natural attenuation capacity, it may not be sufficient to fully protect a nearby point of ground-water discharge.

These two sites illustrate how the efficiency of natural attenuation processes acting on petroleum hydrocarbons can be systematically evaluated using hydrologic, geochemical, and microbiologic methods.  These methods, in turn, can be used to assess the role that the natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons can play in achieving overall site remediation.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Methodology for applying monitored natural attenuation to petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated ground-water systems with examples from South Carolina
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
2000-4161
Year Published:
2000
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Description:
vi, 47 p.
Country:
United States
State:
South Carolina
City:
Charleson, Laurens
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N