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Crude Oil Contamination in the Shallow Subsurface: Bemidji, Minnesota

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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Crude oil from a pipeline rupture in 1979 contaminated a shallow aquifer near Bemidji, Minnesota. After initial cleanup, about 110,000 gallons of crude oil remains in the subsurface. This site thus provides a unique opportunity to study a contaminant plume where the location, amount, and timing of the spill are precisely known. The study focuses on how crude oil spreads in soil vapor and ground water. Models have been developed to describe the controlling physical, chemical, and biological processes. These models can be used to evaluate remedial strategies for oil spills, including intrinsic bioremediation.

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