Assessment of Cryogenic Coring to Preserve Vertical Distributions of Trichloroethylene and Reaction Products in an Aquitard

Kade J. Kearney, Timothy Blount, Emma Palmer, Rosemary Arvizu, Robert Sanford, Albert Valocchi, Charles Schaefer, Charles J. Werth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is not a clear understanding of the extent by which naturally occurring reactions can attenuate trichloroethene (TCE) and its daughter products within low permeability zones (LPZs), and addressing this knowledge gap requires advancement of methods to accurately measure in situ volatile chemical concentrations. In this study, a soil coring method that freezes the soil in-situ (a.k.a., cryogenic coring) was utilized to measure depth-discrete distributions of TCE and its volatile reaction products through a TCE-impacted silty clay aquitard, and results were compared with those from adjacent soil cores taken using a conventional coring approach. Vertical concentration profiles of TCE, cis-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE), vinyl chloride (VC), ethane, and methane were all compared between the two coring methods, and results indicate the two coring methods recovered statistically equivalent concentrations of volatiles across most depths of the fine-grained cohesive clayey soil at the study site. Biotic reductive dechlorination was the dominant TCE reaction pathway at the site; several reduced gasses that are possible markers for abiotic reduction were detected, but their concentrations and intervals of occurrence were not sufficiently consistent to indicate whether they were from abiotic TCE reduction or unrelated biological processes. Overall, cryogenic coring yielded improved recovery of sand lenses compared to conventional coring, but offered no apparent benefits for improved recovery of TCE and its volatile reaction products in the low permeability aquitard material at the site.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-128
Number of pages11
JournalGround Water Monitoring and Remediation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology


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