Tracking groundwater pollutants in real-time’

Involves in situ monitoring using proxy measurements

Scientists have developed a low-cost method to monitor groundwater pollutants in real-time, and help reduce potential health risks.

Groundwater contamination is increasingly recognised as a widespread environmental problem, said researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in U.S.

The most important course of action often involves long-term monitoring. “Conventional methods of monitoring involve taking water samples every year or every quarter and analysing them in the lab,” said Haruko Wainwright, a Berkeley Lab researcher.

“If there are anomalies or an extreme event, you could miss the changes that might increase contaminant concentrations or potential health risk,” said Dr. Wainwright, who led the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. “Our methodology allows continuous monitoring in situ using proxy measurements, so we can track plume movement in real time.”

New approach

It can act as an early warning system and sudden changes in contaminant levels can be detected, they said. “These changes may indicate a need for more or less intervention in terms of the remediation strategy, ideally leading to improved as well as more cost-effective cleanup,” Mr. Wainwright said.

The new approach starts with sensors to track water quality variables that have been determined to be reliable indicators of contaminant levels

The researchers tracked levels of tritium and uranium-238 in the groundwater at the Savannah River site, a former nuclear weapons production site in South Carolina in the U.S. They measured the acidity (or pH) levels and specific conductance (a measure of electrical conductance).

These variables were determined to be reliable indicators for tritium and uranium-238 concentrations. The data from the multiple sensors were then fed into a Kalman filter to estimate contaminant concentrations....Read more


Source web page: The hindu

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