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Groundwater sampling goes tubular

RICHLAND, Wash. "Leave No Trace" is a popular ethic for outdoor recreationists who advocate a natural landscape. Now it is also applicable to groundwater sampling collection sites along the Columbia River in southeastern Washington State. Hydrologists from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are using a simple apparatus of -inch-diameter plastic tubing to collect samples at varying levels in the aquifer along the river's edge. Though a permanent installation, the low-cost, lightweight materials are easy to camouflage with indigenous rocks and vegetation so that the collection site appears undisturbed. Hydrologists compare the aquifer tube method to sipping groundwater through a long straw. The tube system was developed to provide supplemental monitoring in locations where traditional monitoring wells cannot be installed because of access constraints. It has proven to be economical, visually unobtrusive and effective in providing an accurate picture of the vertical distribution of contaminants in groundwater at a specific location.

To install the tubes, a handheld air hammer is used to drive a temporary steel casing into the ground. Plastic tubing is lowered into the casing. Typically, three tubes are installed at each location, reaching depths of approximately 25, 15, and six feet. The bottom six inches of tubing is screened with stainless steel mesh and provides an opening for drawing water samples. After the tubes are anchored in place, the casing is removed, leaving a short section of tubing extending out of the ground. Suction from a handheld peristaltic pump slowly withdraws water from the tubes. When the tubes are not in use, the top ends are capped and covered with PVC pipe to protect them from weather, animals and other hazards, and camouflaged with natural materials to blend in with the environment.

The Hanford Site Environmental Restoration Contractor team, with encouragement from the Department of Energy, con
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Contact: Judith Graybeal
graybeal@pnl.gov
509-375-4351
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
4-Oct-2005


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