Alaska 2009 Exxon-Valdez Bioremediation Project - Part 2

This trip was to be a continuation of the trip taken a few months ago.  Now that our equipment had been in the ground for some time (approximately 2 months) we felt confident that the soil had returned back to its natural state from before digging large holes for our installations.  This time we would be going to do sampling only.  The trip would be 4 graduate students, 1 undergrad, and our advisor, Dr. Michel Boufadel.  We would find ourselves to sample for background concentrations of nutrients, salinity, and dissolved oxygen.  Also, we would conduct tracer tests at each of the two beaches we would visit.  One beach would be on Eleanor Island, and the other on Smith Island, both of which are in Alaska's Prince William Sound.

Left:  Eleanor Island, known as beach 1, before any work had begun.  Surprisingly, nothing was broken or removed.  Right:  Beginning to sample from the multiport wells.

Arriving in Alaska, it was off to a local hostel for the night.  The next morning would mean running errands all day in preparation for departure.  Lowes and Home Depot became second homes for many of us.  The boat trip wouldn't be until the next day.  Just as in the last trip, a Uhaul was rented and put to some heavy duty use.  Filling it with our equipment from the storage where it was all placed two months earlier and then adding new equipment quickly filled the back.  Then it was off to the boat to head out into the sound.

 

Left:  Conducting a permeability test in-situ at beach 1.  Right:  Testing the dissolved oxygen chamber (red piece), using a peristaltic pump to bring water from the sampling box below the surface to the chamber where the probe will measure the dissolved oxygen.

This trip would have an emphasis on sampling for dissolved oxygen in the field.  For this we used our very own dissolved oxygen chamber which we built two of in-house before the trip.  It would allow us to get the most accurate dissolved oxygen readings in the field possible.  Another big aspect of this trip would be the injection of a tracer.  Two pre-dug wells from the previous trip would be used on each beach for tracer injection.  We would also measure tracer concentrations in the field to see just how our tracer was responding with time after injection.

 

Left:  The tanks setup for injection at beach 1, all four feed into a single line which feeds the pump (not shown).  Right:  Eight tanks (4 to each transect) setup for injection at beach 6.

The injection system consisted of diaphragm pumps, flow meters, various valves and connectors, 32 gallon barrels, and the installed injection wells.  One particular injection well, known as the blowout well, was tested until failure before testing any of the remaining injection wells.  This gave the group a feel for what the pumps, the wells, and the soil could handle in terms of flowrate and pressure during injection.

 

Left:  The flow meters used for injection at beach 1, offering a wide range of flow rates.  Right:  Dr. Boufadel checking out the blowout well upon removal after a successful test was conducting.

Once the injection with tracer added was started, it ran until desired concentrations were read in the surrounding sampling wells, and then seawater alone was pumped through the system with readings continuing around the clock.  Computer simulations of the the injection done by students in the lab months ahead of the trip helped to determine the flowrate, concentration, and time of injection.

 

Left:  Digging out the consolidation columns which would be shipped back to Temple University for analysis.  Right:  Marking samples which are being tested for tracer while under the tent, in the dark, in the rain...fun times.

The research team would like to especially thank the boat crew of David Janka and his wife Annette for making the trip enjoyable.  They put up with possibly the most non-punctual group they've ever had on board their boat, the Auklet, and provided great hospitality and delicious meals for everyone.  The boat fit our needs perfectly, we couldn't have asked for anything better.  David also took the best group photo of the trip, which you can see on the "additional pictures" page at the bottom along with a few other great shots he took. 

 

Left:  David and Annette Janka onboard the Auklet at the end of the trip.  Right:  The Auklet on a nice day in the Prince William Sound.

To find out more about David and Annette, and the services they offer onboard the Auklet, please check out their website at www.Auklet.com. Thanks again.

 

Additional pictures of the trip