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Fractured Rock

Characterization

Conceptual Site Model:

A comprehensive graphical and written summary of known or hypothesized information about environmental contamination at a site and other key site characteristics that are pertinent to decision-making.

The guidance Characterization and Remediation in Fractured Rock (ITRC, 2017) includes a stepwise process for CSM development, and Characterization, Modeling, Monitoring, and Remediation of Fractured Rock (NAS, 2020) provides additional considerations for CSM development, particularly its role in remedy design and selection.

Developing a conceptual site model (CSM) at a fractured rock site is challenging. The description of groundwater flow, contaminant distribution, and contaminant migration is confounded by the higher degree of uncertainty within fractured bedrock due to its unique and complex hydrological, chemical, and geological characteristics. This complexity and the potential influence of small-scale features, such as fractures in uncharacteristic locations, underscore the importance of ensuring that characterization is conducted at appropriate scales and that new data are obtained to periodically revise the CSM over the life cycle of the site investigation and cleanup (Day-Lewis et al., 2017; NAS, 2020).

Traditional methods of investigating geophysical, hydrological, and chemical properties of contaminated fractured bedrock typically have focused on drilling and observation of boreholes, aquifer tests1 , and in situ sampling of cores and fluids. Drawbacks of these approaches include generation of potentially contaminated drilling wastes, high material and labor costs, and the potential for creating or enhancing existing contaminant transport pathways through new connections of fractures by boreholes (Day-Lewis et al., 2017). However, tools such as flexible liners (see text box) and inflatable packers can be employed at borehole drilling sites to help prevent or minimize the creation of new pathways. Other characterization technologies range from less invasive, including geologic literature review, multilevel sampling tools, and surface geology surveys, to more intrusive methods that evaluate site fractures, lithology, porosity, hydrology, as well as site microbial and contaminant profiles can be employed as well.

New Advances:

Flexible liners installed to progressively eliminate flow through fractures intersecting a borehole are being used to locate and characterize fractures, measure transmissivity, and map both dissolved phase contamination and NAPL presence using activated carbon felts and color reactive liner developments (NAS, 2020). Recently developed liner technologies involving activated carbon felt and color-reactive liners have demonstrated some utility in mapping NAPL presence as well as dissolved phase contamination in subsurface fractures, and can be used in conjunction with borehole geophysical methods (Keller et al., 2017; Beyer, 2012; FLUTe, 2020; Pehme et al., 2007)

Geophysical methods, which are routinely used in oil, gas, mineral, and geotechnical explorations, are now more commonly used to characterize fractured bedrock at contaminated sites. The non-invasive nature of geophysical methods, when applied from the ground surface, offers an advantage over traditional characterization tools. Downhole tools such as calipers, gamma, resistivity, spontaneous potential, electromagnetic induction, temperature, flowmeter, video, and acoustic televiewers are commonly useful for site characterization and fracture mapping efforts. Many can now be combined in a single probe for cost-effective data collection in a single borehole survey. However, because geophysical methods typically do not record hydrogeological or contaminant properties, coupling them with traditional in situ methods can lead to better understanding of fractured rock hydrogeology and contaminant properties than either method alone (Day-Lewis et al., 2017).

Karst hydrogeologic settings are particularly complex and behave differently from other fractured rock sites. A specialized array of characterization techniques such as hydrograph analysis, precipitation response studies, and dye tests can be used for characterization of karst systems (USGS, 2008).

A comprehensive list of geophysical methods available for potential use at fractured rock sites can be found in the Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool (FRGT-MST) (Day-Lewis et al., 2015). The FRGT-MST, available for download from the U.S. Geological Survey, is an Excel-based tool developed in 2015 for identification of geophysical methods most likely to be appropriate for project goals and site conditions.

ITRCs tool selection worksheet, available through the Characterization and Remediation in Fractured Rock: Select Investigation Tools page, further lists over 100 tools that can be used for characterization at both bedrock and sites with unconsolidated materials, as well as for both saturated and unsaturated subsurface zones.


References:

Aqtesolv, 2019. Aquifer Tests. November 24, 2019. Accessed September 15, 2020.

Beyer, M. 2012. Adobe PDF LogoDNAPL Characterization in Clayey Till & Chalk by FACT (FLUTe Activated Carbon Technique). Master's Thesis, Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark.

Day-Lewis, F.D., 2018. Adobe PDF LogoGeophysical Method Selection: Matching Study Goals, Method Capabilities and Limitations, and Site Condition. 33 slides.

Day-Lewis, F.D., L.D. Slater, J.R., C.D. Johnson, N. Terry, and D. Werkema, 2017. An Overview of Geophysical Technologies Appropriate for Characterization and Monitoring at Fractured-Rock Sites. Journal of Environmental Management 204:709-720(2017)

Day-Lewis, F.D., C.D. Johnson, L.D. Slater, J.L. Robinson, J.H. Williams, C.L. Boyden, D. Werkema, and J.W. Lane Jr., 2015. The Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool (FRGT-MST) v1.0: U.S. Geological Survey Software Release, 06 January 2016.

Flexible Liner Underground Technologies (FLUTe), 2020. Innovative Flexible Liners for High Resolution Hydrogeologic Characterization. Accessed August 2020.

Keller et al., 2017. Overview of the FACT Method for a Continuous Profile of Dissolved Phase Contaminant Distribution in Fractured Rock

Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council (ITRC), 2017. Characterization and Remediation of Fractured Rock. Web-based document FracRx-1.

National Academy of Science (NAS), 2020. Characterization, Modeling, Monitoring, and Remediation of Fractured Rock. National Academies Press, Washington, DC. ISBN: 978-0-309-37372-2, 176 pp, 2020

Pehme, P., B. Parker, J.A. Cherry, and J.P. Greenhouse, 2007. Adobe PDF LogoThe Potential for Compromised Interpretations When Based on Open Borehole Geophysical Data in Fractured Rock. NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:4-15(2007)

USGS, 2008, Adobe PDF LogoHydrogeologic Characterization and Methods Used in the Investigation of Karst Hydrology. Chapter 3 of Field techniques for Estimating Water Fluxes Between Surface Water and Ground Water: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 4-D2, 128 pp.


Resources

Adobe PDF LogoEvaluation and Application of the Purge Analyzer Tool (PAT) to Determine In-Well Flow and Purge Criteria for Sampling Monitoring Wells at the Stringfellow Superfund Site in Jurupa Valley, California, In 2017
Harte, P.T., Perina, T., Becher, K., Levine, H., Rojas-Mickelson, D., Walther, L., and Brown, A., 2021, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5140, 54 p., 2021

Fracture Flow Characterization With Low-Noise Spontaneous Potential Logging
Kowalski, A.C.G., C.A. Mendonca, and U.S. Ofterdinger.
Groundwater 59(1):16-23(2021)

Field Tracer Tests To Evaluate Transport Properties Of Tryptophan And Humic Acid In Karst
Frank, S., N. Goeppert, and N. Goldscheider. | Groundwater 59(1):59-70(2021)

Innovative Flexible Liners for High Resolution Hydrogeologic Characterization
Flexible Liner Underground Technologies (FLUTe), 2020

Aquifer Tests
Aqtesolv, November 24, 2019

Groundwater Flow Quantification in Fractured Rock Boreholes Using Active Distributed Temperature Sensing Under Natural Gradient Conditions (Abstract)
Maldaner, C.H., J.D. Munn, T.I. Coleman, J.W. Molson, and B.L. Parker.
Water Resources Research 55(4):3285-3306(2019)

Adobe PDF LogoGeophysical Method Selection: Matching Study Goals, Method Capabilities and Limitations, and Site Condition
Day-Lewis, F.D., 33 slides, 2018

Characterization and Remediation of Fractured Rock

Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC), Web-based document FracRx-1, 2017

A New Rapid Method for Measuring the Vertical Head Profile (Abstract)
Keller, C.
Groundwater 55(2):244-254(2017)

An Overview of Geophysical Technologies Appropriate for Characterization and Monitoring at Fractured-Rock Sites
Day-Lewis, F.D., L.D. Slater, J.R., C.D. Johnson, N. Terry, and D. Werkema, 2017.
Journal of Environmental Management 204:709-720(2017)

Overview of the FACT Method for a Continuous Profile of Dissolved Phase Contaminant Distribution in Fractured Rock
Keller. C., B. Parker, S. Chapman, and S. Pitkin, 2017

The Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool (FRGT-MST) v1.0
Day-Lewis, F.D., Johnson, C.D., Slater, L.D., Robinson, J.L., Williams, J.H., Boyden, C.L., Werkema, D., et al. U.S.
Geological Survey Software Release, 2016

The Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool (FRGT-MST) is an Excel-based tool for identification of geophysical methods most likely to be appropriate for project goals and site conditions.

Multidisciplinary Characterization of Contaminant Transport in Fractured Rock -- Mirror Lake, New Hampshire [Completed]
U.S. Geological Survey, 2016

USGS webpage containing several references related to early Toxics Program research on point source contamination in fractured rock aquifers was organized around research activities at the Mirror Lake, New Hampshire research site. Fractured-rock aquifers near Mirror Lake have highly varied and complex hydrologic characteristics. USGS investigated methods to characterize the movement of water and contaminants through fractured rock.

Characterization, Modeling, Monitoring, and Remediation of Fractured Rock
National Research Council. National Academies Press, Washington, DC. ISBN: 978-0-309-37372-2, 176 pp, 2020

Adobe PDF LogoDemonstration and Validation of a Fractured Rock Passive Flux Meter
Hatfield, K., 2015, ESTCP Project ER-200831, 195 pp, 2015

Adobe PDF LogoDemonstration of a Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox (FRGT) for Characterization and Monitoring of DNAPL Biodegradation in Fractured Rock Aquifers
Slater, L., F. Day-Lewis, J. Robinson, and T. Johnson, ESTCP Project ER-201118, 166 pp, 2015

New Method for Continuous Transmissivity Profiling in Fractured Rock (Abstract)
Keller, C.E., J.A. Cherry, and B.L. Parker.
Groundwater, 52(3): 352-367(2014)

DNAPL Characterization in Clayey Till & Chalk by FACT (FLUTe Activated Carbon Technique)
Beyer, M., Master's Thesis, Technical University of Denmark, 80 pp, 2012

Adobe PDF LogoHydro-geologic Spatial Resolution using Flexible Liners
Keller, C. The Professional Geologist 49(3):45-51(2012)

Matrix Diffusion Toolkit
Farhat, S.K., C.J. Newell, T.C. Sale, D.S. Dandy, J.J. Wahlberg, M.A. Seyedabbasi, J.M. McDade, and N.T. Mahler, ESTCP
Project ER-201126, 160 pp, 2012

Borehole Geophysical Investigation of a Formerly Used Defense Site, Machiasport, Maine, 2003-2006
Johnson, C.D., R.A. Mondazzi, and P.K. Joesten. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5120, 333 pp, 2011

Chlorinated Solvents in Fractured Sedimentary Rock - Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) Research Site, West Trenton, NJ
U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, 2010

Factors Affecting Specific-Capacity Tests and Their Application: A Study of Six Low-Yielding Wells in Fractured-Bedrock Aquifers in Pennsylvania
Risser, D.W., U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5212, 44 pp, 2010

Fractured Bedrock Field Methods and Analytical Tools, Volumes I & II
Doe, T.W., Golder Associates, Prepared for The Science Advisory Board for Contaminated Sites in British Columbia, 2010

Multiple Well-Shutdown Tests and Site-Scale Flow Simulation in Fractured Rocks (Abstract)
Tiedeman, C.R., P.J. Lacombe, and D.J. Goode.
Groundwater 48(3):401-415(2010)

Adobe PDF LogoTools for Characterization and Monitoring of Contaminated Fractured Rock
Goode, D.J. Federal Remedial Technology Roundtable Meeting, 33 pp., 2010

Characterization of Crystalline Bedrock Contaminated by Dense Nonaqueous Liquid (Abstract)
Cho, H.J., R. Fiocco, and M. Daly.
Groundwater Monitoring and Remediation 28(2):49-59(2008)

Adobe PDF LogoHydrogeologic Characterization and Methods Used in the Investigation of Karst Hydrology

Chapter 3 of Field techniques for Estimating Water Fluxes Between Surface Water and Ground Water. U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 4-D2, 128 pp.

Adobe PDF LogoAnalysis of Cross-Hole Tests in Fractured Systems
Roberts, R.M. and D.O. Bowman II.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:16-30(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoAnalysis of Organic Carbon (foc) in Fractured Bedrock
Rawson, J. and T.R. Eschner.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:555-563(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoCharacterizing a VOC Plume Migrating From Fractured Shale into a Karst Limestone Aquifer
Landry, P.G., B.L. Hoke, and P.R. Stone III.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:420-432(2007)

Conceptual Flow Model of Hydrocarbon Impacted Ground Water in an Undifferentiated Gneiss
Zuidema, S. and J.R. Hale.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:372-384(2007)

Detailed CVOC Source Area Investigation in the Context of a Fractured Bedrock Conceptual Site Model
Vernon, J.H., P.C. Shattuck, M.D. Kauffman, D.M. Clemens, R.A. Leitch, and D.M. Maynard.
Proceedings of the Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water and Energy 12(36)(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoDeveloping Remedial Strategies in a Mixed Porous Medium/Fractured Rock System: Lemberger Site, Whitelaw, Wisconsin
Wedekind, J.E., K.R. Bradbury, P.M. Chase, M.B. Gotkowitz, E. Gredell, K.D. Krause, and J.M. Rice.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:389-402(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoHydraulic Characterization of a Fractured Bedrock Aquifer
Murray, W.A. and D.R. Farnsworth.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:50-65(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoInvestigating Contaminated Sites on Fractured Rock Using the DFN Approach
Parker, B.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:150-168(2007)

A New Depth-Discrete Multilevel Monitoring Approach for Fractured Rock (Abstract)
Cherry, J.A., B.L. Parker, and C. Keller.
Groundwater Monitoring & Remediation 27(2):57-70(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoThe Potential for Compromised Interpretations When Based on Open Borehole Geophysical Data in Fractured Rock
Pehme, P., B. Parker, J.A. Cherry, and J.P. Greenhouse
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 24-26 September, Portland, Maine:4-15(2007)

Adobe PDF LogoAnalysis of Selected Geophysical Logs at North Penn Area 6 Superfund Site, Lansdale, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
Conger, R.W. and D.J. Low.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 13-15 September, Portland, Maine:492-505(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoFractured Bedrock Aquifer Hydrogeologic Characterization for a Bioaugmentation Pilot Study
Jeffers, P. and V. Wittig.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 13-15 September, Portland, Maine:148-157(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoGeophysical Characterization of Fractured Rock Aquifers: Accounting for Scale Effects and Putting Hydrology in the Geophysics
Paillet, F.L.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 13-15 September, Portland, Maine:14-26(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoMulti-Method Geophysical Approach for Characterizing a Deep Fractured Bedrock Aquifer, Anniston Army Depot, Anniston, Alabama
Murray, B.S. and M.B. Vest.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 13-15 September, Portland, Maine:464-478(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoPumping Test Analysis in a Fractured Crystalline Bedrock
Cho, H.J., R.J. Fiacco, and M.H. Daly.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 13-15 September, Portland, Maine:161-172(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoUse of the In Situ, Inc. MP Troll 9000 to Locate Fractures Contributing to Ground Water Flow in Bedrock Wells
Sernoffsky, R., G. Robbins, and R. Mondazzi.
NGWA/U.S. EPA Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, 13-15 September, Portland, Maine:341-349(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoAn Illustrated Handbook of DNAPL Transport and Fate in the Subsurface
Environment Agency, United Kingdom. R&D Publication 133, 67 pp, 2003

Borehole-Geophysical Investigation of the University of Connecticut Landfill, Storrs, Connecticut
Johnson, Carole D., F.P. Haeni, John W. Lane, Jr., and Eric A. White.
U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4033, 183+ pp, 2002

Adobe PDF LogoTechnical Bulletin: Multilevel Sampling
Technical Bulletin. CL:AIRE (Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments), London, UK. TB2, 4 pp, 2002

Borehole-Radar Methods - Tools for Characterization of Fractured Rock
Singha, Kamini, Kari Kimball, and John W. Lane, Jr.
U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 054-00, 4 pp, 2000

Borehole Geophysics

USGS webpage explaining the various logging devices and how they are used as well as advances in borehole geophysics for groundwater investigations.

Contamination in Fractured Rock Aquifers

USGS webpage listing research papers, fact sheets, and publications addressing contaminated fractured rock aquifers.

FracMan

The proprietary FracMan® software suite provides an integrated set of tools for discrete feature network (DFN) analysis of fractured and non-fractured heterogeneous rock masses. FracMan includes tools for discrete feature data analysis, geologic modeling, spatial analysis, visualization, flow and transport, and geomechanics.

Multifunction Bedrock-Aquifer Transportable Testing Tool (BAT3)

USGS webpage describes the patented Multifunction Bedrock-Aquifer Transportable Testing Tool (BAT3), which is designed to conduct tests that measure the permeability of fractures and collect water samples for geochemical analyses from short intervals of boreholes in fractured-rock aquifers.

Open Path Technologies: Measurement at a Distance - Lidar

U.S. EPA's program Measurement and Monitoring Technologies for the 21st Century (21M2) developed a webpage on Lidar monitoring technology which explains its basic operation and use. Lidar can help identify lineaments in overflights of heavily vegetated areas.

USGS Groundwater Information: Hydrogeophysics Branch

Bibliography lists references by the U.S. Geological Survey related to hydrogeophysical tools.

Karst Resources

Adobe PDF LogoHydrogeologic Characterization and Methods Used in the Investigation of Karst Hydrology
Chapter 3 of Field techniques for Estimating Water Fluxes Between Surface Water and Ground Water: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods 4-D2, 128 pp. 2008

Karst Characterization of the Marshall Space Flight Center: Two Years Later
Yuhr, L., R. Kaufmann, D. Casto, M. Singer, B. McElroy, and J. Glasgow.
Sinkholes and the Engineering and Environmental Impacts of Karst (GSP 183): Proceedings of the Eleventh Multidisciplinary Conference, September 22-26, 2008, Tallahassee, Florida. American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA.

Adobe PDF LogoA Case Study of Traditional and Alternative Monitoring Techniques for Solvent Contamination within Fractured Bedrock
Pearson, S. and B. Murphy.
Fractured Rock Conference: State of the Science and Measuring Success in Remediation, September 13-15, 2004, Portland, Maine. 239-252(2004)

Adobe PDF LogoA Case History of a Large Karst Investigation
Yuhr, L., R.C. Benson, R.D. Kaufmann, D. Casto, and J. Jennings.
Geophysics 2003: 3rd International Conference on Applied Geophysics, December 8-12, 2003, Orlando, Florida. Florida Department of Transportation, 8 pp, 2003

Delineation of Source-Water Protection Areas in Karst Aquifers of the Ridge and Valley and Appalachain Plateaus Physiographic Provinces: Rules of Thumb for Estimating the Capture Zones of Springs and Wells
Ginsberg, M. and A. Palmer.
EPA 816-R-02-015, 52 pp, 2002

The QTRACER2 Program for Tracer Breakthrough Curve Analysis for Tracer Tests in Karstic Aquifers and Other Hydrologic Systems
EPA 600-R-02-001, 196 pp, 2002

Karst Interest Group Workgroup Proceedings

USGS webpage includes information on upcoming workshops and proceedings from past interest group workshops.


Helpful Definitions

  1. Aquifer test Used to estimate hydraulic properties of an aquifer and involves controlling water flow through site wells to examine several parameters. Aquifer tests include slug tests, pumping tests, and constant-head tests (Aqtesolv, 2019). ↩

  2. Aquifer test Used to estimate hydraulic properties of an aquifer and involves controlling water flow through site wells to examine several parameters. Aquifer tests include slug tests, pumping tests, and constant-head tests (Aqtesolv, 2019).  ↩