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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

Crosscutting Topics

Tracer Tests

The use and development of tracer tests to study contaminant transport and fate

Toxic Substances Hydrology (Toxics) Program scientists use tracer tests to learn more about the transport and fate of contaminants in the environment. By placing a known concentration and amount of tracer in ground water or in a stream and monitoring the movement of the tracer, scientists can test hypotheses on the processes that control the transport and fate of many different types of contaminants. In many cases, changing natural systems and watching the response is one of the most efficient ways to learn how contaminants move in ground water or streams. The Toxics Program’s extensive use of tracer tests is unique when compared to other environmental research programs. Many Toxics Program investigations have used tracer tests as part of their investigation. The information presented on this page cuts across lines drawn by individual investigations and projects so that information on tracer tests conducted by the Toxics Program can be presented in one place.

Investigations and Research Activities

Fact Sheets

Multilevel well-sampling array at the Cape Cod Research Site, MA, where many natural gradient tracer tests have been conducted. There are over 10,000 subsurface sampling ports.
Multilevel well-sampling array at the Cape Cod Research Site, MA, where many natural gradient tracer tests have been conducted. There are over 10,000 subsurface sampling ports.
(Larger Version)

Headlines

Processing samples during a stream tracer test on California Gulch, Animas River, CO
Processing samples during a stream tracer test on California Gulch, Animas River, CO
(Larger Version)

Bibliography

New Publications

Upcoming Publications

  • Field-scale SF6 tracer experiment to understand long distance gas transport in the deep unsaturated zone: Walvoord, M.A., Andraski, B.J., Green, C.T., Stonestrom, D.A., and Striegl, R.G., Vadose Zone Journal (IN PRESS).

Newly Published

A photo of the equipment used for conducting a tracer test. The equipment is under a tarp. Injection well and monitoring wells are in the foreground
A tracer solution of 15N-enriched ammonium was injected upgradient of several multilevel sampling wells during a natural-gradient tracer test designed to assess the fate and transport of ammonium in a sewage plume on Cape Cod, Mass.
(Larger Version)

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Page Last Modified: Tuesday, 22-Jul-2014 12:20:51 EDT