Development and Testing of Hydrogel Beads as Potential Floating Tracers of Contaminant Movement in Karst Aquifers

  • Dorothy J. VesperEmail author
  • Habib Bravo-Ruiz
  • Amanda F. Laskoskie
  • Harry M. Edenborn
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Karst Science book series (AKS)


The transport of light non-aqueous phase liquids (LNAPLs) is not well understood in karst settings. Traditional tracers do not predict the movement of free product; therefore, this study was undertaken to develop a better tracer proxy for LNAPL. The floating hydrogel tracer beads were created using alginate polymers and adding fluorescent pigments and density-modifying additives to alter their physical characteristics. Two sets of multi-tracer field tests (beads plus a conservative solute tracer) were completed in a 60-m section of cave stream. The beads were quantified via counting for the first set of tests and using particle image velocimetry (PIV) for the second. During the 2012 tests (170 L/s discharge), the beads travelled faster than the solute tracer; however, in the 2014 tests (9.1 L/s) the results were less conclusive (the beads arrived before the solute but had a later peak time and a lower mean velocity). Most of the particle studies have reported that particles travel faster than solutes, in accordance with our 2012 studies. Although the beads are particles and thus not an ideal proxy for LNAPL contaminants, they hold promise for future experimental studies and highlight the complexity of LNAPL transport in cave systems.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorothy J. Vesper
    • 1
    Email author
  • Habib Bravo-Ruiz
    • 2
  • Amanda F. Laskoskie
    • 2
  • Harry M. Edenborn
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geology and GeographyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Weston Solutions, Inc.EdisonUSA
  3. 3.US Department of Energy, National Energy Technology LaboratoryPittsburghUSA

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