Geophysical methods, including a shallow seismic reflection (SSR) survey, surface and borehole ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data, and electrical resistivity imaging (ERI), were conducted at the Savannah River site (SRS), South Carolina, to investigate the shallow stratigraphy, hydrogeophysical zonation, and the applicability and performance of these geophysical techniques for hydrogeological characterization in contaminant areas. The study site is the P Reactor area located within the upper Atlantic coastal plain, with clastic sediments ranging from Late Cretaceous to Miocene in age. The target of this research was the delineation and prediction of migration pathways of a trichloroethylene (TCE) contaminant plume that originates from the northwest section of the reactor facility and discharges into the nearby Steel Creek. This contaminant plume has been migrating in an east-to-west direction and narrowing away from the source in an area where the general stratigraphy along with the groundwater flow dips to the southeast. Here, we present the results from a stratigraphic and hydrogeophysical characterization of the site using the SSR, GPR, and ERI methods. Although detailed stratigraphic layers were identified in the upper approximately 50 m (164 ft), other major findings include (1) the discovery of a shallow (∼23 m [75 ft] from the ground surface) inverse fault, (2) the detection of a paleochannel system that was previously reported but that seems to be controlled by the reactivation of the interpreted fault, and (3) the finding that the hydraulic gradient seems to have a convergence of groundwater flow near the area. The interpreted fault at the study site appears to be of upper Eocene age and may be associated with other known reactivated faults within the Dunbarton Triassic Basin. The coincident use of the SSR and ERI methods in conjunction with the complementary 50-, 100-, and 200-MHz GPR antennas allowed us to generate a detailed geologic model of the shallow subsurface, suggesting that the migration of the TCE plume is constrained by (1) the paleochannel system with respect to its migration direction, (2) the presence of an inverse fault that may also contribute to the paleochannel growth and structural evolution, and (3) the local groundwater flow volume with respect to its longer and narrower shape away from the source updip stratigraphic bedding.
Published in Environmental Geosciences, ed. American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Volume 17, Issue 2, 2010, pages 77-98.
Cameron González, A. E., Knapp, C. C., Waddell, M. G., Addison, A. D., & Shafer, J. M. (2010). Structural and stratigraphic control on the migration of a contaminant plume at the P Reactor area, Savannah River site, South Carolina. Environmental Geosciences, 17 (2), 77-98.
© Environmental Geosciences 2010, The American Association of Petroleum Geologists/Division of Environmental Geosciences