Monitoring redox sensitive conditions at the groundwater interface using electrical resistivity and self-potential

Fernandez, P.M. and Bloem, E. and Binley, A. and Philippe, R.S.B.A. and French, H.K. (2019) Monitoring redox sensitive conditions at the groundwater interface using electrical resistivity and self-potential. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 226. ISSN 0169-7722

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Assessing redox conditions in soil and groundwater is challenging because redox reactions are oxygen sensitive, hence, destructive sampling methods may provide contact with air and influence the redox state. Furthermore, commonly used redox potential sensors provide only point measurements and are prone to error. This paper assesses whether combining electrical resistivity (ER) and self-potential (SP) measurements can allow the mapping of zones affected by anaerobic degradation. We use ER imaging because anaerobic degradation can release iron and manganese ions, which decreases pore water resistivity, and produces gas, which increases resistivity. Also, electrochemical differences between anaerobic and aerobic zones may create an electron flow, forming a self-potential anomaly. In this laboratory study, with four sand tanks with constant water table heights, time-lapse ER and SP mapped changes in electrical/electron flow properties due to organic contaminant (propylene glycol) degradation. Sampled pore water mapped degradation and water chemistry. When iron and manganese oxides were available, degradation reduced resistivity, because of cation release in pore water. When iron and manganese oxides were unavailable, resistivity increased, plausibly from methane production, which reduced water saturation. To bypass the reactions producing methane and release of metallic cations, a metal pipe was installed in the sand tanks between anaerobic and aerobic zones. The degradation creates an electron surplus at the anaerobic degradation site. The metal pipe allowed electron flow from the anaerobic degradation site to the oxygen-rich near surface. The electrical current sent through the metal pipe formed an SP anomaly observable on the surface of the sand tank. Time-lapse ER demonstrates potential for mapping degradation zones under anaerobic conditions. When an electrical conductor bridges the anaerobic zone with the near surface, the electron flow causes an SP anomaly on the surface. However, electrochemical differences between anaerobic and aerobic zones alone produced no SP signal. Despite their limitations, ER and SP are promising tools for monitoring redox sensitive conditions in unsaturated sandy soils but should not be used in isolation.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
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This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Contaminant Hydrology. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 226, 2019 DOI: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2019.103517
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26 Jul 2019 13:15
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 02:40