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Crude Oil Contamination in the Shallow Subsurface: Bemidji, Minnesota

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.

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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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