Rock Outcrops in the Canadian Shield: an Investigation of Contaminant Transport From Surface Sources in Fractured Rock Aquifers

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Praamsma, Titia
Transport , Fractured Rock , Colloids , Bacteria , Hydrogeology , Drinking Water , Source Water Protection , Outcrops
Flow, recharge and transport dynamics in fractured rock aquifers with low lying rock outcrops is a largely unexplored area of study in hydrogeology. The purpose of this thesis is to examine these topics in an agricultural area in Eastern Ontario. The study consists of a regional scale groundwater quality study, an infiltration experiment that considers bacteria transport from the ground surface to a well, and a numerical modelling study that tests the parameters that affect surface infiltration of a tracer from a rock outcrop to a deeper horizontal fracture. In the water quality study, approximately 65% of the samples contained total coliform, 16% contained E. coli, and 1% contained nitrate-N at greater than 5 mg/L. Occurrence of E. coli increased when considering seasonality, where wells were drilled on rock outcrops, and for shallow well intervals. Nitrate-N did not occur above the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality (Health Canada, 2012) of 10 mg/L. Rapid arrival times were observed in the infiltration study for both the microspheres (30 minutes) and a dye tracer (45 minutes) in a well approximately 6.0 m in horizontal and 2.8 m in vertical distance from the tracer source. Transport velocities were approximately 38.9 m/day for the dye tracer and 115.2 m/day for the colloidal tracer. Results of the model runs indicate that overburden can provide an effective protective layer to transport in fractures, that high groundwater velocities occur in larger fracture apertures and higher gradients dilute tracer concentrations, and that lower groundwater velocities occur with smaller fracture apertures and lower gradients result in elevated tracer concentrations. Lower rainfall rates, larger fracture apertures, early tracer time, larger gradients, and lower water levels maintained unsaturated conditions for longer time periods such that tracer transport was delayed until saturated conditions were attained. The overall heterogeneity of this aquifer environment creates a source water protection conundrum where the water quality is generally good, while transport can occur very quickly in proximity to rock outcrops and in areas with limited overburden.
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