The Effects of Contaminated Soil and Groundwater on Subsurface Utilities, Surface Water and Drainage

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) routinely performs road improvement projects where a portion of the right-of-way might be contaminated. Potential sources of contamination include underground storage tanks in the vicinity of the road improvement site, old unlined landfills, or abandoned industrial and agricultural operations with practices leading to soil and/or groundwater contamination. It has been reported by NCDOT in RNS#7406 that in several situations, subsurface utilities including drainage pipes are present in environments where soil and groundwater contamination exists. The effect of the contamination on the integrity and durability of the subsurface drainage pipes and gaskets is largely unknown but such integrity is a function of the type of contamination and the physicochemical properties of pipe, gasket, and other materials forming a given subsurface utility. In addition to the variety of contaminants and concentrations that prevail at these sites, a wide variation in soil geological formation and hydrogeological conditions exist across the state. While in general the groundwater table is expected to be high in the North Carolina (NC) Coastal Plain Physicographic region, it is expected to be deep in the Mountains. On the other hand, it is more likely that groundwater will feed surface water springs and streams in the NC Mountains. Therefore, a "typical" contaminated site is difficult to define. Accordingly, the adverse effect of subsurface contamination on drainage pipes and the efficacy of hardening measures are usually developed on a site-specific basis. Objectives of this project are to (i) catalog the prevalent types of contaminants and their concentrations at sites where subsurface utilities are installed, (ii) document the typical materials used in subsurface utilities and drainage systems in NC, (iii) quantify the effect of contaminants on the long-term durability of commonly used hardened and unhardened materials that are used in construction of subsurface utilities, (iv) quantify the rate and extent of migration of common contaminants through concrete utilities, (v) recommend effective hardening methods for different materials, and (vi) provide documentation and better understanding of the effect of subsurface utility installation on the contamination of groundwater and surface water through simulation of several typical scenarios. These objectives will be achieved through a multidisciplinary effort of the research team as outlined in the project plan. Objective (i) will be achieved through examination of available data from the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). If necessary, limited sampling of groundwater and surface water will be conducted in consultation with NCDOT in areas where subsurface utilities have been installed and contamination is known to exist or expected to occur. Objectives (ii), (iii), and (iv) will be accomplished through literature review and accelerated coupon testing in the research team's laboratory. Objective (v) will be achieved by analyzing test results and literature data. Objective (vi) will be accomplished through numerical simulations.