Nested monitoring approaches to delineate groundwater trichloroethene discharge to a UK lowland stream at multiple spatial scales

John Weatherill, Stefan Krause, Kevin Voyce, Falko Drijfhout, Amir Levy, Nigel Cassidy

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Integrated approaches for the identification of pollutant linkages between aquifers and streams are of crucial importance for evaluating the environmental risks posed by industrial contaminants like trichloroethene (TCE). This study presents a systematic, multi-scale approach to characterising groundwater TCE discharge to a 'gaining' UK lowland stream receiving baseflow from a major Permo-Triassic sandstone aquifer. Beginning with a limited number of initial monitoring points, we aim to provide a 'first pass' mechanistic understanding of the plume's fate at the aquifer/stream interface using a novel combination of streambed diffusion samplers, riparian monitoring wells and drive-point mini-piezometers in a spatially nested sampling configuration. Our results indicate the potential discharge zone of the plume to extend along a stream reach of 120 m in length, delineated by a network of 60 in-situ diffusion samplers. Within this section, a 40 m long sub-reach of higher concentration (> 10 ??g L- 1) was identified; centred on a meander bend in the floodplain. 25 multi-level mini-piezometers installed to target this down-scaled reach revealed even higher TCE concentrations (20-40 ??g L - 1), significantly above alluvial groundwater samples (<6 ??g L- 1) from 15 riparian monitoring wells. Significant lateral and vertical spatial heterogeneity in TCE concentrations within the top 1 m of the streambed was observed with the decimetre-scale vertical resolution provided by multi-level mini-piezometers. It appears that the distribution of fine-grained material in the Holocene deposits of the riparian floodplain and below the channel is exerting significant local-scale geological controls on the location and magnitude of the TCE discharge. Large-scale in-situ biodegradation of the plume was not evident during the monitoring campaigns. However, detections of cis-1,2-dichloroethene and vinyl chloride in discrete sections of the sediment profile indicate that shallow (e.g., <20 cm) TCE transformation may be significant at a local scale in the streambed deposits. Our findings highlight the need for efficient multi-scale monitoring strategies in geologically heterogeneous lowland stream/aquifer systems in order to more adequately quantify the risk to surface water ecological receptors posed by point-source groundwater contaminants like TCE. ?? 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-54
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Early online date19 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Chlorinated ethenes
  • Groundwater discharge
  • Lowland stream
  • Passive sampling
  • Permo-Triassic sandstone
  • Sediments
  • Trichloroethene


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