We applied a sequence of site characterization methods to a former Soviet military airbase with likely fuel and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) contamination in shallow groundwater and subsoil. The methods were (i) phytoscreening with tree cores; (ii) soil gas measurements for CH4, O2, and photoionization detector (PID); (iii) direct-push with membrane interface probe (MIP) and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) sensors; (iv) direct-push sampling; and (v) sampling from soil and from groundwater monitoring wells. Phytoscreening and soil gas measurements are rapid and inexpensive pre-screening methods. Both indicated subsurface pollution and hot spots successfully. The direct-push sensors yielded 3D information about the extension and the volume of the subsurface plume.
This study also expanded the applicability of tree coring to BTEX compounds and tested the use of high-resolution direct-push sensors for light hydrocarbons. Comparison of screening results to results from conventional soil and groundwater sampling yielded in most cases high rank correlation and confirmed the findings. The large-scale application of non- or low-invasive pre-screening can be of help in directing and focusing the subsequent, more expensive investigation methods. The rapid pre-screening methods also yielded useful information about potential remediation methods. Overall, we see several benefits of a stepwise screening and site characterization scheme, which we propose in conclusion.
Published in the Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 14673–14686 (2015)