This work has support from the USGS Toxic Substances Hydrology Program and the USGS Water Mission Area. Field support was provided by Jonathan Arthur, Michael Barrenchea, Amanda Garcia, Mike Johnson, Ron Kauble, Stephen Maples, Justin Mayers, Michelle Walvoord, and other members of the USGS ADRS team. Michelle Walvoord and James Thordsen provided supporting data. We gratefully acknowledge the constructive review comments of Phil Stauffer, Fred Tillman, and four anonymous reviewers. We thank the State of Nevada, the Bureau of Land Management, and US Ecology, Inc., for their cooperation in long-term research at the site. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government. All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in the main text of this publication, associated supplemental material, and as a data release (Green et al., 2019).
Vadose Zone Journal
Subsurface volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can pose risks to human and environmental health and mediate biological processes. Volatile organic compounds have both anthropogenic and biogenic origins, but the relative importance of these sources has not been explored in subsurface environments. This study synthesized 17 yr of VOC data from the Amargosa Desert Research Site in Nevada with the goal of improving understanding of spatial and temporal variations that distinguish sources of VOCs from a landfill and from ambient sources including biogenic VOCs (bVOCs). Gas samples were collected from 1999 to 2016 from an array of shallow sample points (0.5- and 1.5-m depth) and from vertical profiles at three deep boreholes: two (109 m deep) near the border of a waste facility (33 and 100 m distant), and one (29 m deep) in a remote area 3 km to the south. Samples were analyzed for target VOCs and a subset was analyzed for non-target VOCs to enumerate a greater variety of potential bVOCs. Principal components analysis of the target and non-target VOCs provided an assessment of the spatial variability of VOCs originating from the landfill site and from ambient sources. Ambient VOCs occurred at all sample sites across a range of depths, and most were consistent with biogenic origins, indicating for the first time the presence of bVOCs in the deep unsaturated zone. Because some VOCs have both anthropogenic and biogenic sources, discrimination of sources can be important for estimating the extent and migration of anthropogenic plumes in arid unsaturated zones.
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Green, C. T., Luo, W., Conaway, C. H., Haase, K. B., Baker, R. J., & Andraski, B. J. (2019). Spatial Fingerprinting of Biogenic and Anthropogenic Volatile Organic Compounds in an Arid Unsaturated Zone. Vadose Zone Journal, 18(1).