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Integrated methodology for assessing the HCH groundwater pollution at the multi-source contaminated mega-site Bitterfeld/Wolfen

Abstract

A large-scale groundwater contamination characterises the Pleistocene groundwater system of the former industrial and abandoned mining region Bitterfeld/Wolfen, Eastern Germany. For more than a century, local chemical production and extensive lignite mining caused a complex contaminant release from local production areas and related dump sites. Today, organic pollutants (mainly organochlorines) are present in all compartments of the environment at high concentration levels. An integrated methodology for characterising the current situation of pollution as well as the future fate development of hazardous substances is highly required to decide on further management and remediation strategies. Data analyses have been performed on regional groundwater monitoring data from about 10 years, containing approximately 3,500 samples, and up to 180 individual organic parameters from almost 250 observation wells. Run-off measurements as well as water samples were taken biweekly from local creeks during a period of 18 months. A kriging interpolation procedure was applied on groundwater analytics to generate continuous distribution patterns of the nodal contaminant samples. High-resolution geological 3-D modelling serves as a database for a regional 3-D groundwater flow model. Simulation results support the future fate assessment of contaminants. A first conceptual model of the contamination has been developed to characterise the contamination in regional surface waters and groundwater. A reliable explanation of the variant hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) occurrence within the two local aquifer systems has been derived from the regionalised distribution patterns. Simulation results from groundwater flow modelling provide a better understanding of the future pollutant migration paths and support the overall site characterisation. The presented case study indicates that an integrated assessment of large-scale groundwater contaminations often needs more data than only from local groundwater monitoring. The developed methodology is appropriate to assess POP-contaminated mega-sites including, e.g. HCH deposits. Although HCH isomers are relevant groundwater pollutants at this site, further organochlorine pollutants are present at considerably higher levels. The study demonstrates that an effective evaluation of the current situation of contamination as well as of the related future fate development requires detailed information of the entire observed system.

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Notes

  1. The term “lindane” should be distinguished from γ-HCH; γ-HCH is one of several HCH isomers, and is a component of technical HCH as well as of lindane. Lindane contains 99 % of pure γ-HCH.

  2. After year 2002, the regional groundwater flow situation changed in consequence of the flooded open pit mine Goitzsche and caused therewith an adjustment of the local site management.

  3. e.g. Brazil (Torres et al. 2010), India (Abhilash and Singh 2009; Jit et al. 2011) or South Africa (Vijgen 2006)

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Acknowledgments

Parts of the paper have been founded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as well as by the Federal State Agency of Saxony-Anhalt (LAF) within the SAFIRA and the Ad-Hoc Elbe-Mulde Projects. Furthermore, a partial project funding was added by the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ.

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Correspondence to Reiner Stollberg.

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This article belongs to the series “Dioxin and POP Contaminated Sites edited by Roland Weber, Mats Tysklind, Caroline Gaus (Weber et al. 2008a).

Responsible editor: Michael Matthies

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Wycisk, P., Stollberg, R., Neumann, C. et al. Integrated methodology for assessing the HCH groundwater pollution at the multi-source contaminated mega-site Bitterfeld/Wolfen. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20, 1907–1917 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-012-0963-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-012-0963-4

Keywords

  • HCH
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Groundwater pollution
  • Mega-site
  • Bitterfeld
  • Geological 3-D model
  • Hydrogeological model
  • Regionalisation
  • Stockholm Convention