Comparison of Eight Innovative Site Characterization Tools Used to Investigate

Environmental assessment of contaminated sites often requires delineation of the pathways of contaminant migration. Often, the pathways are strongly affected by the subsurface geology. At Vandenberg AFB in California, an accidental release of gasoline containing MTBE occurred at a base gasoline station in 1994. Dissolution of the gasoline into groundwater has created a dissolved MTBE plume at least 1,700 feet long. The plume is flowing in a complex shallow alluvial aquifer system comprised of thin sand layers within a silt and clay matrix.

Portions of the aquifer containing the dissolved plume have been characterized in considerable detail in order to assess the occurrence, distribution, and flux of MTBE and other solutes within the dissolved plume. In one area(Transect B), the geology and plume geochemistry was assessed by collecting continuous stratigraphic and geochemical profiles at 40-foot intervals across the entire width of the MTBE plume. Eight innovative characterization tools were used in the subsurface investigation along Transect B, providing a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the various characterization tools.

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