Subterranean Mapping Method Will Find Homes For Pollution-Eating Bacteria

the field and the information they provide is applied to the whole area. This is like pulling several pages at random from a book and trying to understand the story. At most, the reader gets the general gist of the book. To get the details of the plot, the reader needs to know what words are there.

Smith believes he can get the details. He and his INEEL colleagues plan to send a tracer molecule that interacts with iron oxide, such as fluoride, through 4-inch wells dug several feet deep into sandy ground in Oyster, Virginia. By monitoring how fast tracers migrate to surrounding wells, they can deduce how much iron oxide the tracer traveled over. Taking measurements at different depths will give them a three-dimensional view of the subsurface.

A cross-section of the Virginian soil reveals orange streaks of iron oxide layered between light-colored sand. Smith said they chose Oyster because "the ground is very, very simple there. If we can't do it at a simple site, we can't do it at a more complex one."

But trips out to Virginia's eastern shore won't happen soon. Smith said, "It's a new concept. This hasn't been done on a field scale and we have a lot of lab experiments to do first." Early experiments will be done on core samples from Oyster to determine how such the tracers flow vertically and horizontally.

Smith and his colleagues, computer modeler Annette Shafer and hydrologist Bob Starr, are contributing surface area information to a larger research effort involving other universities, including Princeton and Old Dominion, and other national labs who are all using the Oyster site to study microbial behavior below the ground surface.


Contact: Mary Beckman
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

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