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Crude Oil Contamination in the Shallow Subsurface: Bemidji, Minnesota

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.

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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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