Tracing Groundwater-Flow in the Borden Aquifer Using Kr-85

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Journal of Hydrology
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Krypton-85 was measured in air, soil gas, and ground water at the Borden aquifer in Ontario in October 1989. The measured specific activities in air and soil gas were 52.0 +/- 2.0 and 53.6 +/- 1.8 disintegrations per min (dpm) cm-3 krypton. These measurements are in excellent agreement with the global atmospheric trend and demonstrate that krypton-85 enters the water table at the Borden site without a lag in the soil ps reservoir. The krypton-85 specific activity in five groundwater samples ranged from 44.9 to 9.5 dpm cm-3 corresponding to groundwater ages of 2-17 years with a monotonic decrease in specific activity (increase in age) along the groundwater flow path. Travel times calculated from a two-dimensional steady-state model of groundwater flow agree well with the krypton-85 ages in the main recharge region of the aquifer where flow is predominantly vertical, but were 30-40% older than the krypton-85 age downstream of the main recharge area where the flow is mainly horizontal. The effect of dispersion on the distribution of krypton-85 was determined by modelling the transport of krypton-85 in the Borden aquifer with a two-dimensional time-dependent advection dispersion model using the steady-state flow field. Agreement between model specific activity and observed specific activity was excellent for samples in the main recharge region, but the model specific activities were 30-50% lower than observed specific activities in the region of horizontal flow. The differences in travel times and krypton-85 ages and in model krypton-85 and observed krypton-85 specific activities are considered to be small given the heterogeneities that exist in the hydraulic conductivity and aquifer geometry and hence in the groundwater flow field. The model simulated krypton-85 distribution was not sensitive to changes in longitudinal dispersivity and was only weakly sensitive to changes in transverse dispersivity. The geochemical inertness, well-defined source function, and insensitivity to dispersion of krypton-85 allow estimates of groundwater age to be made in a straightforward manner and measurement of krypton-85 can significantly enhance the characterization -of groundwater flow in many shallow subsurface systems.


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