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Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4274

Preliminary Assessment of Using Tree-Tissue Analysis and Passive-Diffusion Samplers to Evaluate Trichloroethene Contamination of Ground Water at Site SS-34N, McChord Air Force Base, Washington, 2001

Prepared in cooperation with

By S.E. Cox


Two low-cost innovative sampling procedures for characterizing trichloroethene (TCE) contamination in ground water were evaluated for use at McChord Air Force Base (AFB) by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Air Force McChord Air Force Base Installation Restoration Program, in 2001. Previous attempts to characterize the source of ground-water contamination in the heterogeneous glacial outwash aquifer at McChord site SS-34N using soil-gas surveys, direct-push exploration, and more than a dozen ground-water monitoring wells have had limited success. The procedures assessed in this study involved analysis of tree-tissue samples to map underlying ground-water contamination and deploying passive-diffusion samplers to measure TCE concentrations in existing monitoring wells. These procedures have been used successfully at other U.S. Department of Defense sites and have resulted in cost avoidance and accelerated site characterization.

Despite the presence of TCE in ground water at site SS-34N, TCE was not detected in any of the 20 trees sampled at the site during either early spring or late summer sampling. The reason the tree tissue procedure was not successful at the McChord AFB site SS-34N may have been due to an inability of tree roots to extract moisture from a water table 30 feet below the land surface, or that concentrations of TCE in ground water were not large enough to be detectable in the tree tissue at the sampling point.

Passive-diffusion samplers were placed near the top, middle, and bottom of screened intervals in three monitoring wells and TCE was observed in all samplers. Concentrations of TCE from the passive-diffusion samplers were generally similar to concentrations found in samples collected in the same wells using conventional pumping methods. In contrast to conventional pumping methods, the collection of ground-water samples using the passive-diffusion samples did not generate waste purge water that would require hazardous-waste disposal. In addition, the results from the passive-diffusion samples may show that TCE concentrations are stratified across some screened intervals. The overall results of the limited test of passive-diffusion samplers at site SS-34N were similar to more detailed tests conducted at other contaminated sites across the country and indicate that further evaluation of the use of passive-diffusion samplers at McChord site SS-34N is warranted.


Purpose and Scope
Description of Study Area
Methods of Collection and Analysis
Tree-Tissue Samples
Passive-Diffusion Samples
Assessment of Tree-Tissue Analysis
Assessment of Passive-Diffusion Analysis
Appendix 1. List of Analytes Included in Volatile Analysis From Passive Diffusion Samplers

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, S.E. Cox (253).428.3600 ext. 2623.

For more information about USGS activities in Washington, visit the USGS Washington District home page.

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