, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 246-256

Effect of oil pollution on fresh groundwater in Kuwait

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Abstract

Massive oil fires in Kuwait were the aftermath of the Gulf War. This resulted in the pollution of air, water, and soil, the magnitude of which is unparalleled in the history of mankind. Oil fires damaged several oil well heads, resulting in the flow of oil, forming large oil lakes. Products of combustion from oil well fires deposited over large areas. Infiltrating rainwater, leaching out contaminants from oil lakes and products of combustion at ground surface, can reach the water table and contaminate the groundwater. Field investigations, supported by laboratory studies and mathematical models, show that infiltration of oil from oil lakes will be limited to a depth of about 2 m from ground surface. Preliminary mathematical models showed that contaminated rainwater can infiltrate and reach the water table within a period of three to four days, particularly at the Raudhatain and Umm Al-Aish regions. These are the only regions in Kuwait where fresh groundwater exists. After reaching the water table, the lateral movement of contaminants is expected to be very slow under prevailing hydraulic gradients. Groundwater monitoring at the above regions during 1992 showed minor levels of vanadium, nickel, and total hydrocarbons at certain wells. Since average annual rainfall in the region is only 120 mm/yr, groundwater contamination due to the infiltration of contaminated rainwater is expected to be a long-term one.