Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 7, pp 2607–2620

Using field analogue soil column experiments to quantify radon-222 gas migration and transport through soils and bedrock of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

  • Kelsey E. O’Brien
  • Dave Risk
  • Daniel Rainham
  • Anne Marie O’Beirne-Ryan
Original Article

Abstract

Radon gas is a human health hazard; long-term exposure to high radon concentrations through inhalation is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Nova Scotia has been previously identified as a potential high risk region because of the geology. As such, the gas transport through Halifax’s fine grained leucomonzogranite (FGL) unit of the South Mountain Batholith needed to be quantified to further remediation efforts. Using controlled laboratory experiments, four different soil columns were created using the Halifax Regional Municipality’s (HRM) highest producing field tills and bedrock. Permeability, diffusivity, radon-222 gas concentrations, and gas transit time/speed were measured in both dry tills (field moisture) and wet tills (simulated rain event moisture). Columns with HRM till displayed the highest radon concentrations, and were less permeable with additional moisture. Radon diffusivity calculated from CO2 was 7.52 × 10−8 m2 (dry), and 3.37 × 10−8 m2 (wet); diffusivity calculated from 222Rn was 7.30 × 10−7 m2 (dry), and 6.47 × 10−7 m2 (wet). The average FGL transit time in a 60 cm column was 3.57 days (dry), and 3.82 days (wet). Locally this study presents two different methods for diffusivity calculations, for a unit lacking previous diffusivity information. The radon gas concentrations and transport speeds quantified the transport mechanisms within the till. Globally, the correlation between soil moisture, and radon/permeability values was established using these results. The link between diffusivity and permeability was also confirmed using field tills. Implications were made for building foundations, as well as the depth and type of material necessary to reduce radon gas from reaching the surface.

Keywords

Radon Soil gas Health risk Gas transport Diffusivity Permeability 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelsey E. O’Brien
    • 1
  • Dave Risk
    • 2
  • Daniel Rainham
    • 1
  • Anne Marie O’Beirne-Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Dalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  2. 2.St Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada

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