Contaminant sorption to sedimentary rocks

Advisor: Dr. Richelle Allen-King (Department of Geology)
Primary Activities: Laboratory experiments

Project Summary: Chlorinated solvents, such as trichloroethene (TCE), are some of the most frequently detected and persistent of the organic contaminants found in groundwater. It is well known that contaminants can be temporarily stored in low permeability layers comprised of silt or clay within groundwater aquifer rendering many remediation methods inadequate.  However, the importance of sorption, where TCE becomes attached to the solid phase, is often not considered during remediation planning. Recent research has demonstrated that TCE sorption can be very important and especially so for sedimentary rocks. In this project, the student will determine the magnitude and potential mechanism(s) of TCE sorption to sedimentary rock samples from the former National Air Warfare Center field site. The new contribution of this study is that there are very few studies that evaluate TCE sorption to sedimentary rocks of terrestrial origin. This laboratory based research is a companion project to a new field project that will measure the rates of processes that affect TCE fate and transport at the NAWC.  The field project will be conducted in collaboration with US Geological Survey researchers from the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program. Identifying the locations and processes that ‘trap’ contaminants in groundwater will enable remediation planning that focusses effort where contaminants are concentrated.  The student will work in the well-equipped Hydrogeochemistry Laboratory at UB making extensive use of gas chromatography and other analytical equipment. Ancillary characterization of the sediment will also be completed.  

Skills/Courses Recommended: Basic knowledge of geology and chemistry
Anticipated Conference Presentation(s): Geological Society of America

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