Fate and transport of volatile organic compounds in glacial till and groundwater at an industrial site in Northern Ireland

Phillips, D. H. and Thomas, A. O. and Forde, K. and Dickson, K. and Plant, S. and Norris, G. and Bone, B. and Kalin, Robert (2007) Fate and transport of volatile organic compounds in glacial till and groundwater at an industrial site in Northern Ireland. Environmental Geology, 52 (6). pp. 1117-1131. (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00254-006-0550-4)

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Volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination of subsurface geological material and groundwater was discovered on the Nortel Monkstown industrial site, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The objectives of this study were to (1) investigate the characteristics of the geological material and its influences on contaminated groundwater flow across the site using borehole logs and hydrological evaluations, and (2) identify the contaminants and examine their distribution in the subsurface geological material and groundwater using chemical analysis. This report focuses on the eastern car park (ECP) which was a former storage area associated with trichloroethene (TCE) degreasing operations. This is where the greatest amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particularly TCE, were detected. The study site is on a complex deposit of clayey glacial till with discontinuous coarser grained lenses, mainly silts, sands and gravel, which occur at 0.45-7.82 m below ground level (bgl). The lenses overall form an elongated formation that acts as a small unconfined shallow aquifer. There is a continuous low permeable stiff clayey till layer beneath the lenses that performs as an aquitard to the groundwater. Highest concentrations of VOCs, mainly TCE, in the geological material and groundwater are in these coarser lenses at similar to 4.5-7 m bgl. Highest TCE measurements at 390,000 mu g L-1 for groundwater and at 39,000 mu g kg(-1) at 5.7 m for geological material were in borehole GA19 in the coarse lens zone. It is assumed that TCE gained entrance to the subsurface near this borehole where the clayey till was thin to absent above coarse lenses which provided little retardation to the vertical migration of this dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) into the groundwater. However, TCE is present in low concentrations in the geological material overlying the coarse lens zone. Additionally, VOCs appear to be associated with poorly drained layers and in peat < 3.0 m bgl in the ECP. Some indication of natural attenuation as VOCs degradation products vinyl chloride (VC) and dichloromethane (DCM) also occur on the site.