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Old riverbed keeps chemicals from entering Ohio River

DENVER -- A long-dry riverbed in northeastern Ohio is preventing a pool of chemical waste from infiltrating the Ohio River, geologists have found.

The finding may call into question the need to clean up similar chemical waste sites. It also indicates a previously unknown interaction between an underground aquifer and the nearby Ohio River.

Beneath sand and gravel on the grounds of Barium and Chemical Inc. in Steubenville, OH, lies an aquifer that contains chemicals such as nitrate and barium that the company dumped there when such dumping was still legal, before the 1980s. The company is now working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site, so that the chemicals wont enter the Ohio River -- which provides water to many local towns.

In 1992, the company asked Kevin Svitana, then an independent hydrology consultant, to study the site and determine how the cleanup should proceed. The site proved unusual, in that chemicals in the underground pool didnt flow into the river as he had expected.

Ever since, Svitana has tried to figure out why. He continued monitoring the pools strange behavior after becoming a doctoral student in geological sciences at Ohio State University in 2002.

Wednesday, at the Geological Society of America meeting in Denver, Svitana reported that he may have uncovered part of the answer: Ohio River water flowing into old troughs, or paleo-channels, beneath the former position of the river is forcing the pool to remain trapped within those channels and away from the present-day river.

The question now is, will the chemical pool stay in place, so that the company may use a natural attenuation approach to the cleanup? he said.

The river deposited sand and gravel above the aquifer more than 10,000 years ago, before the rivers path shifted almost a mile to the east, explained Svitana.

He found that the dry riverbed is still link
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Contact: Kevin Svitana
Svitana.1@osu.edu
Ohio State University
10-Nov-2004


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