Scientific Investigation Report 2004-5011

Distribution of Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE) and Selected Water-Quality Constituents in the Surficial Aquifer at the Dover National Test Site, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, 2001

By Marie Stewart, William R. Guertal, Jeffrey R. Barbaro, and Timothy J. McHale


This report is available as a pdf.



A joint study by the Dover National Test Site, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and the U.S. Geological Survey was conducted from June 27 through July 18, 2001, to determine the spatial distribution of the gasoline oxygenate additive methyl tert-butyl ether and selected water-quality constituents in the surficial aquifer underlying the Dover National Test Site. This report provides a summary assessment of the distribution of methyl tert-butyl ether and a preliminary screening of selected constituents that may affect natural attenuation and remediation demonstrations at the Dover National Test Site. The information gathered during this study is designed to assist potential remedial investigators who are considering conducting a methyl tert-butyl ether remedial demonstration at the test site. In addition, the study supported a planned enhanced bioremediation demonstration and assisted the Dover National Test Site in identifying possible locations for future methyl tert-butyl ether remediation demonstrations.

A direct-push drill rig was used to collect a total of 147 ground-water samples (115 VOC samples and 32 quality-assurance samples) at varying depths. Volatile organic compounds were above the method reporting limits in 59 of the 115 ground-water samples. The concentrations ranged from below detection limits to maximum values of 12.4 micrograms per liter of cis-1,2-dichloro-ethene, 1.14 micrograms per liter of trichloro-ethene, 2.65 micrograms per liter of tetrachloro-ethene, 1,070 micrograms per liter of methyl tert-butyl ether, 4.36 micrograms per liter of benzene, and 1.8 micrograms per liter of toluene. Vinyl chloride, ethylbenzene, p,m-xylene, and o-xylene were not detected in any of the samples collected during this investigation. Methyl tert-butyl ether was detected in 47 of the 115 ground-water samples. The highest concentrations of methyl tert-butyl ether were detected in the surficial aquifer from 4.6 to 6.4 feet mean sea level; however, methyl tert-butyl ether was detected as deep as 9.5 feet mean sea level. Increased methane concentrations and decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations that were found in association with the ground-water samples that contained methyl tert-butyl ether are preliminary indicators that will assist in determining if natural attenuation of methyl tert-butyl ether is occurring in the surficial aquifer. A full assessment of natural attenuation of methyl tert-butyl ether at the site is beyond the scope of this study, but the data collected during the study will be useful in selecting appropriate remedial methyl tert-butyl ether demonstrations.





Purpose and scope

Description of study area

Methods of investigation


Ground-water sample collection

Analytical methods

Water-level measurements

Analytical results of ground-water sampling

Vertical and horizontal distribution of methyl tert-butyl ether and selected water-quality

constituents in the surficial aquifer

Summary and conclusions

References cited

Related web links

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.


View the full report in PDF (1.8 MB)


Document Accessibility:  Adobe Systems Incorporated has information about PDFs and the visually impaired. This information provides tools to help make PDF files accessible. These tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe at Adobe Access.


For more information about USGS activities in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia contact:


U.S. Geological Survey
Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Water Science Center
8987 Yellow Brick Road
Baltimore, MD 21237
Telephone: (410) 238-4200
Fax: (410) 238-4210


or access the USGS Water Resources of Maryland, Delaware, and District of Columbia home page at:

FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button