Conference to Assemble Scientific Sleuths

Feb. 27, 2004
Ground Water Contamination: Solving the Puzzle of Fractured Rock

When underground contamination hits fractured bedrock, it can be maddening to predict its movement through the random cracks and fissures — making this one of the most difficult types of geology to clean up.

In fractured rock sites around the United States, ground water contamination comes from a variety of sources including Superfund sites, large scale military installations, individual gasoline stations and dry cleaners to name a few.

Scientists love a good challenge, however, and some of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject will gather Sept. 13-15 in Portland, Maine, to tackle how to detect, monitor and clean up contamination in fractured rock.

The Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation is sponsored by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"It’s elusive to monitor contaminants in fractured rock. Some say once it gets into the rock, we’ll never get it out," said Robert Masters of the National Ground Water Association. "We don’t believe this is always the case, and the goal of this conference is to advance the efficiency of remediation of ground water at fractured rock sites."

The conference will bring together what might seem strange bedfellows: the environmental community and experts from the petroleum industry.

"The environmental community is interested in getting oil and other pollutants out of the ground. The petroleum industry focuses on getting oil stored in the ground. There’s much common ground when it comes to applicable research and engineering," said Masters. "If we just shared the existing technology, it would be a major step toward more effective remediation."

The conference’s keynote speaker — Walter Kovalick, Jr., Ph.D., Director, U.S. EPA Technology Innovation Office — will speak on "Ground Water Clean Up: Making Progress, Challenges Ahead."

Among other special guests are:

 Roberto Aguilera, Ph.D., Servipetrol Ltd. On "Oil Field Techniques for Characterizing Fractured Rock."

 Dana Carlisle of GeoEngineers on "Successful Use of a Horizontal/Vertical Well Couplet in Fractured Bedrock Remediation."

 Allen Shapiro, Ph.D., of the U.S. Geological Survey and NGWA Distinguished Darcy Lecturer on "Recent Advances in Characterizing Ground Water Flow and Chemical Transport in Fractured Rock: From Cores to Kilometers."

The conference will focus on two major areas: characterization, or describing and monitoring contamination; and remediation, or cleaning up contamination.

Scientists and engineers from 10 nations will be presenting papers at the conference. In addition to the United States, these nations are Canada, Czech Republic, Columbia, Denmark, France, Greece, Mexico, Portugal and Sweden.

The conference will be managed by Rich Steimle of the EPA and Masters of NGWA.

Steimle has been the EPA’s leader in bringing forward the science and engineering surrounding fractured rock cleanup. He has directed workshops, an international conference in Toronto, a web-base focus area (see first link below) and a document entitled, "The State-of-the Practice of Characterization and Remediation of Contaminated Ground Water at Fractured Rock Sites" (see second link below).

Masters conducted an international conference entitled, Fractured Rock Aquifers 2002, in Denver, Colorado sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. EPA in response to a water availability crisis in Jefferson County, Colorado.

Source: The National Ground Water Association