Erich Guy, geology graduate student, led the investigation of the Marion site. Other graduate students working on the project included Stan Radzevicius and Jennifer Holt. Between the 1890s and 1960s, the Marion facility used large quantities of creosote, a common wood preservative. It stored the oily, foul-smelling liquid in two aboveground tanks.
The aboveground tanks were long gone by 1999, on the cold February day the Ohio State students inspected the abandoned 100-acre lot.
Both the Ohio EPA and the U.S. EPA had studied the site throughout the 1990s, but hadn't been able to pinpoint exactly how creosote had leaked from the property into the nearby Little Scioto River.
"There was a slight odor of creosote in the air, but it was nothing you'd really notice," said Holt.
The students surveyed a football-field sized portion of the property with a commercially available GPR device, first with the antennas in a side-by-side configuration, and then with the antennas crossed. They used software to create 3-D maps of the subsurface.
The map created by the side-by-side configuration showed a messy jumble of signals. The rocks, soil, and clay on the property obscured the deposits of creosote.