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High-resolution electrical resistivity tomography monitoring of a tracer test in a confined aquifer

By P.B. Wilkinson, P.I. Meldrum, O. Kuras, J.E. Chambers, S.J. Holyoake and R.D. Ogilvy


A permanent geoelectrical subsurface imaging system has been installed at a contaminated land site to monitor changes in groundwater quality after the completion of a remediation programme. Since the resistivities of earth materials are sensitive to the presence of contaminants and their break-down products, 4-dimensional resistivity imaging can act as a surrogate monitoring technology for tracking and visualising changes in contaminant concentrations at much higher spatial and temporal resolution than manual intrusive investigations. The test site, a municipal car-park built on a former gas-works, had been polluted by a range of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dissolved phase contaminants. It was designated statutory contaminated land under Part IIA of the UK Environmental Protection Act due to the risk of polluting an underlying minor aquifer. Resistivity monitoring zones were established on the boundaries of the site by installing vertical electrode arrays in purpose-drilled boreholes. After a year of monitoring data had been collected, a tracer test was performed to investigate groundwater flow velocity and to demonstrate rapid volumetric monitoring of natural attenuation processes. A saline tracer was injected into the confined aquifer, and its motion and evolution were visualised directly in high-resolution tomographic images in near real-time. Breakthrough curves were calculated from independent resistivity measurements, and the estimated seepage velocities from the monitoring images and the breakthrough curves were found to be in good agreement with each other and with estimates based on the piezometric gradient and assumed material parameters

Topics: Physics, Earth Sciences, Electronics, Engineering and Technology
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.jappgeo.2009.08.001
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:9533

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