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Production and laboratory testing of groundwater tracing particles

Culver, Madison
Tracer tests are a primary method that water resource managers and researchers use to investigate and characterize both surface and groundwater systems. When conducting a tracer test, it is imperative that the tracer is appropriate for the system in which it is being used. Traditionally, tracers include materials such as fluorescent dye, salts, isotopes, and various colloids. However, these tracers have limited adaptability, can be difficult to detect, degrade quickly, and/or in some cases have the potential to be toxic to the study environment. The goal of the present study is to produce a new groundwater tracer particle (GTP) which is customizable and non-toxic. These GTP are intended to be utilized in the field to investigate fractured and karstic groundwater connections. The GTP are non-conservative, non-toxic, sand-sized (~1mm) particle tracers intended to survive long enough to be detected in natural water systems. The particles’ properties of color/fluorescence, density, and special properties, such as magnetism, can be altered to better suit the desired study area. A set of laboratory tracer tests are used to characterize the transport properties of the GTP. Using an ASTM standard constant head permeameter (a.k.a. a Darcy tube), GTP transport will be compared to that of a solute tracer and a silica sand tracer. The breakthrough time of the solute, GTP, and silica sand tracers were compared. The total mass recovery rate was also compared. The ultimate goal of this research is to use the GTP to conduct a tracer test at the City of Ada Managed Aquifer Recharge Research Site that is located in the karstic Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer in south-central Oklahoma.