Forced-gradient tracer tests in a fractured limestone aquifer designed and interpreted by modeling

    Activity: Talks and presentationsConference presentations


    The importance of fracture flow and transport in a fractured limestone was investigated with a hydraulic pumping test combined with 6 tracer tests. The pumping test was conducted in a PCE-contaminated fractured limestone aquifer over several weeks, with head observations being collected at a set of observation wells at several depth intervals in the aquifer. The pumping test was combined with six tracer tests. Fluorescent and ionic tracers were used for injections through the screens of the observation wells and monitored at the pumping well. Before the pumping test, the geology was carefully mapped using borehole cores, flow logs, geophysics etc. 3D modeling guided with the test design and helped with the interpretation of the of the pumping and tracer test results.

    The pumping test and the geologic investigations showed that the limestone aquifer was highly permeable, with fracture flow dominating the hydraulic response. Most tracer tests resulted in a very fast tracer arrival, indicating a very good connectivity between wells at a similar depth as the pumping well. Strong diffusive interaction between fractures and matrix was revealed by significant tailing in the tracer breakthrough curves. In one tracer test, tracers were injected before starting to pump to allow the tracers to diffuse more into the matrix. This resulted in lower breakthrough concentrations and longer tailing, representing mainly the back-diffusion from the matrix. Deeper wells and crushed upper layers have less connectivity to the pumping well and show slower tracer breakthroughs.

    The breakthrough curves from the tracer tests were used to test different model concepts. A discrete-fracture model could be fitted best to the observed breakthrough curves. It demonstrated the importance of including fracture flow and transport in the modeling of fractured limestone sites. The calibrated model was used to analyze the spreading behavior of the contaminant plume.
    Period2 Oct 2017
    Event title2017 NGWA Conference on Fractured Rock and Groundwater
    Event typeConference
    LocationBurlington, United States, VermontShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational