A natural gradient experiment on solute transport in a sand aquifer: 1. Approach and overview of plume movement


  • D. M. Mackay,

  • D. L. Freyberg,

  • P. V. Roberts,

  • J. A. Cherry


A large-scale field experiment on natural gradient transport of solutes in groundwater has been conducted at a site in Borden, Ontario. Well-defined initial conditions were achieved by the pulse injection of 12 m3 of a uniform solution containing known masses of two inorganic tracers (chloride and bromide) and five halogenated organic chemicals (bromoform, carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethylene, 1,2-dichlorobenzene, and hexachloroethane). A dense, three-dimensional array of over 5000 sampling points was installed throughout the zone traversed by the solutes. Over 19,900 samples have been collected over a 3-year period. The tracers followed a linear horizontal trajectory at an approximately constant velocity, both of which compare well with expectations based on water table contours and estimates of hydraulic head gradient, porosity, and hydraulic conductivity. The vertical displacement over the duration of the experiment was small. Spreading was much more pronounced in the horizontal longitudinal than in the horizontal transverse direction; vertical spreading was very small. The organic solutes were retarded in mobility, as expected.