Investigations of Geoelectrical Signatures at a Hydrocarbon Contaminated Site


This study provides an evaluation of the utility and resolution of different geoelectrical methods in mapping contaminant distribution in the subsurface, and provides a window into the processes that may control their response at a site in Central Michigan. In situ and 2D surface resistivity, ground penetrating radar (GPR), and electromagnetic methods (EM) constrained by soil boring data were used to investigate the electrical properties of a light nonaqueous phase liquid (LNAPL) contaminant plume that resulted from 50 years of leakage into a glacio-fluvial geologic setting. Overall, the electrical signature from the in situ resistivity measurements were best able to image the subsurface stratigraphy and the associated contamination zone. GPR also mapped the subsurface stratigraphy. In particular, the GPR recorded a reflector that is subparallel to the water table, and occurs a few meters above the current free product level, which is coincident with the top of an oil-stained, light-gray sand layer. Further, regions of attenuated GPR reflections (shadow zones) due to enhanced conductivities were found to be coincident with low apparent resistivities. 2D geoelectrical measurements successfully imaged the top of the saturated zone and the underlying clay layer, but was unable to resolve any anomalous region that could be attributed to the hydrocarbon contamination. Likewise, the EM results provided no evidence of the presence of the free product plume at depth. Throughout this investigation, geoelectric measurements consistently recorded low resistivities (high apparent conductivities) associated with zones containing the free/residual product plume instead of high resistivities as has been suggested by the simple intuitive model. From this, it is inferred that substantial modification of the geochemical characteristics of the plume, surrounding media, and associated groundwater has occurred as a result of biogeochemical reactions. It is evident from this study that in situ resistivity measurements combined with surface geoelectrical measurements can characterize the distribution of conductive zones that may be associated with the biodegradation of LNAPL in the subsurface. Thus, the application of these techniques to hydrogeologic, contaminant monitoring, and remediation studies are far reaching.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Biodegradation; Bioremediation; Geoelectrical Method; Hydrocarbon; Model; Polluted Soil; Pollution Monitoring; United States; Contamination; Electric Conductivity Measurement; Electric Properties; Electromagnetic Waves; Geochemistry; Groundwater; Hydrocarbons; Impurities; Radar; Weathering; Biogeochemical; Geoelectrical Methods; Ground Penetrating Radar; Hydrocarbon Contamination; Light Nonaqueous Phase Liquid Contaminant Plume; Electric Prospecting; Electrical Technique; Geophysical Technique; Pollutant Transport; Electrical Conductivity; Electrical Method; Electrical Resistivity; Electromagnetic Method; Hydrocarbon Migration; Mapping; Nonaqueous Phase Liquid; Pollutant Transport; Conductivity; Contamination; Degradation; Geoelectrical; LNAPL

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Article - Journal

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© 2000 Elsevier, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2000