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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Groundwater Quality

Chloride Dispersion across Silt Deposits in a Glaciated Bedrock River Valley


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 43 No. 2, p. 459-467
    Received: July 21, 2013
    Published: June 23, 2014

    * Corresponding author(s): crotaru@ecs.umass.edu
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  1. Camelia Rotaru *,
  2. David W. Ostendorf and
  3. Don J. DeGroot
  1. Civil and Environmental Engineering Dep., Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003


Soil and groundwater from the Neponset River floodplain deposit that receive high concentrations of deicing agents from nearby highways were investigated. The silty sand floodplain is separated by a silty aquitard from the underlying aquifer that serves as a public water supply. We made a transport-based assessment of the capacity of the aquitard to protect the underlying aquifer. One hundred seventeen soil samples and 469 groundwater samples collected during a period of 4 yr from boreholes and 10 wells grouped in two well clusters were analyzed for dissolved Cl concentration. The soil characterization and groundwater monitoring results agreed, showing a very slow change in subsurface Cl contamination with time. These data also calibrated a vertical one-dimensional advective–dispersive transport model across the deposits. Advective transport dominated only in the top 3.37 m of the floodplain deposit, with dispersion being the main transport mechanism below this depth. Due to the silty nature of the aquitard, dispersion rather than diffusion was the main transport mechanism into the floodplain–aquitard system. Soil and groundwater quality data confirmed a Cl concentration at the floodplain surface near the highway runoff drainage outlets of 2450 mg L−1. The model estimated a vertical dispersivity at the site of 8 mm and a vertical hydrodynamic dispersion coefficient of 3.71 × 10−9 m2 s−1. These data confirmed the aquitard’s capacity to contain deicing agents, protecting the underlying aquifer from contamination.

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