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Crude Oil Contamination in the Shallow Subsurface: Bemidji, Minnesota

USGS scientists collecting water-qualty samples from observation wells.
USGS scientists collecting water-qualty samples from observation wells above a subsurface groundwater contamination plume. Research at the 1979 crude oil spill at the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota, has helped to overcome many challenges facing an effective, cost-efficient cleanup. Photo credit: Jared Trost, USGS.

Diagram of an dual-pump oil recovery system.
Crude-oil recovery system implemented at the Bemidji, Minnesota, research site, 1999 to 2003. The crude-oil in the unsaturated zone above the water table contained a mixture of crude oil, air, and water in the sediment pore spaces (Delin and Herkelrath, 2014) Remediation of crude oil from the aquifer is difficult, owing to sorption and entrapment of the oil in the pore spaces within sediments.

Aerial view of surface oil contamination from a pipeline rupture-Bemidji, Minnesota.
Aerial view of surface oil contamination from the pipeline rupture at the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota (circa 1979). Much of the black area was caused by oil spraying from the rupture.

Map of surface oil areas resulting from the pipeline rupture at the Bemidji Site, Minnesota.
Map of surface oil areas resulting from the pipeline rupture at the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota. The map delineates areas where the oil pooled in the subsurface, where oil drained, where oil sprayed from the rupture, and where soil was removed.

Oblique areal view of the crude oil spray area, Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota.
Oblique areal view of the crude oil spray area at the pipeline rupture site. USGS scientists and others have been studying the long-term fate of the spilled crude oil.

Diagram of a conceptual model of how oil biodegarades in the subsurface.
Conceptual model of the subsurface contaminant plume's microbial geochemistry. The model shows the right to left progression of what electron acceptors are being used by subsurface microbial communities to degraded dissolved oil constituents in groundwater.

USGS scientist collecting a vapor sample from a well.
Collecting vapor samples from contaminated areas in the unsaturated zone. The USGS scientist is using a syringe to extract air from a small sampling tube that extends into the subsurface.

USGS scientists core cutting a frozen core that placed on a table.
USGS scientists cutting a frozen core for later biogeochemical analysis. Freezing the core keeps the natural pore fluids in place. The scientists have been studying the natural attenuation of a plume of dissolved constituents in groundwater that resulted from a crude oil spill.

A scientist with a gas chromatograph in a laboratory trailer.
A scientist operating a gas chromatograph in an onsite laboratory. The onsite laboratory enables the scientists to make measurements quickly so sampling plans can be adjusted on the fly.

USGS installing a tensiometer at the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota.
Installing a tensiometer in the unsaturated zone prior to a tracer test. Tensiometers are used to measure water pressure in the unsaturated zone.

USGS scientist measuring hydrogen gas in the onsite laboratory - Bemidji, Minnesota.
USGS scientist measuring hydrogen gas in groundwater samples in the onsite laboratory at the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota. Hydrogen is an important intermediate compound that is both produced and consumed during biodegradation. The hydrogen gas concentrations can help identify the types of microbial communities that are degrading contaminants.

USGS scientists injecting a tracer solution with a syringe into tubing.
USGS scientists conducting a subsurface tracer test at the Bemidji Crude Oil Spill Research Site, Minnesota. The scientists use tracer tests to study subsurface contaminant transport processes.

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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 09-Jul-2014 10:55:54 EDT