Underground Contaminants Found More Easily


A new way to find underground contaminants, developed by University of Rhode Island geophysicist Reinhard Frohlich, can reduce drilling and digging beneath the surface, saving time and money.

The process includes inserting two metal spikes in the ground at various distances and connecting them to an electric current. Frohlich says measuring the voltage between the spikes can determine the resistivity of the soil, which tells if the soil is polluted.

Resistivity measurements calculate a material's opposition to the flow of electric current and are used to find contaminated salts dissolved in groundwater. Frohlich's experiments went farther, to find organic compounds like toluene, benzene, xylene, ethylbenzene, phenol and other cancer-causing substances that do not conduct electricity as easily as the salt.

Resistivity increases significantly in areas where the aquifer is polluted compared to clean areas," he said. "We should be able to use this as the first step in the remediation process because it's quicker and allows us to drill fewer borings into the aquifer."

UPI, 12/02

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