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Monitoring Lateral Transport of Ethanol and Dissolved Gasoline Compounds in the Capillary Fringe

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Fuel mixtures composed of gasoline and ethanol are lighter than water and, if enough volume is released into the unsaturated zone, they accumulate in the capillary fringe, acting as a source for dissolved plumes. To evaluate different sampling techniques and transport in the capillary fringe, two controlled releases of gasoline and ethanol mixtures were conducted in the unsaturated zone at the CFB Borden aquifer. Lateral flow and transport in the capillary fringe is well documented, but this is the first field documentation of transport of organic compounds in the capillary fringe following fuel spills. Transport of both ethanol and hydrocarbon compounds in the capillary fringe was significant, ethanol being transported exclusively above the water table. Significant concentrations of benzene were found above the water table up to 6 m downgradient from the source. The groundwater sampling techniques evaluated were fully screened monitoring wells; multilevel wells constructed with ceramic porous cups located in both the capillary fringe and below the water table; and soil coring. The fully screened monitoring well was unable to draw water from the capillary fringe and so failed to adequately describe the contaminant distribution. Pore water concentrations obtained by sampling the multilevel porous cups and calculated based on analysis of soil core yielded similar results.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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