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Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5091

Resistivity Profiling for Mapping Gravel Layers That May Control Contaminant Migration at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Nevada

By Jeffrey E. Lucius, Jared D. Abraham, and Bethany L. Burton


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Gaseous contaminants, including CFC 113, chloroform, and tritiated compounds, move preferentially in unsaturated subsurface gravel layers away from disposal trenches at a closed low-level radioactive waste-disposal facility in the Amargosa Desert about 17 kilometers south of Beatty, Nevada. Two distinct gravel layers are involved in contaminant transport: a thin, shallow layer between about 0.5 and 2.2 meters below the surface and a layer of variable thickness between about 15 and 30 meters below land surface. From 2003 to 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey used multielectrode DC and AC resistivity surveys to map these gravel layers. Previous core sampling indicates the fine-grained sediments generally have higher water content than the gravel layers or the sediments near the surface. The relatively higher electrical resistivity of the dry gravel layers, compared to that of the surrounding finer sediments, makes the gravel readily mappable using electrical resistivity profiling. The upper gravel layer is not easily distinguished from the very dry, fine-grained deposits at the surface. Two-dimensional resistivity models, however, clearly identify the resistive lower gravel layer, which is continuous near the facility except to the southeast. Multielectrode resistivity surveys provide a practical noninvasive method to image hydrogeologic features in the arid environment of the Amargosa Desert.

Version 1.0

Posted September 2008

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Suggested citation:

Lucius, J.E., Abraham, J.D., and Burton, B.L., 2008, Resistivity profiling for mapping gravel layers that may control contaminant migration at the Amargosa Desert Research Site, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5091, 30 p.




Purpose and Scope

Site Location and Description

Geologic Setting

Hydrologic Setting and Climate

Method of Investigation

Resistivity of Earth Materials

Traditional Four-Electrode Resistivity Soundings

Automated Multielectrode Resistivity Profiling

Capacitively Coupled Resistivity Profiling

Data Collection

Real-Time Kinematic Global Positioning System

Resistivity Soundings

Multielectrode Resistivity Profiling

Capacitively Coupled Resistivity Profiling

Data Processing and Modeling



References Cited



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