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Trends in Methyl tert-Butyl Ether Concentrations in Private Wells in Southeast New Hampshire: 2005 to 2015

Author:
Flanagan, Sarah M., Levitt, Joseph P., Ayotte, Joseph D.
Source:
Environmental Science & Technology 2017 v.51 no.3 pp. 1168-1175
ISSN:
1520-5851
Subject:
bedrock, decontamination, gasoline, granite, population density, wells, New Hampshire
Abstract:
In southeast New Hampshire, where reformulated gasoline was used from the 1990s to 2007, methyl tert-butyl ether (MtBE) concentrations ≥0.2 μg/L were found in water from 26.7% of 195 domestic wells sampled in 2005. Ten years later in 2015, and eight years after MtBE was banned, 10.3% continue to have MtBE. Most wells (140 of 195) had no MtBE detections (concentrations <0.2 μg/L) in 2005 and 2015. Of the remaining wells, MtBE concentrations increased in 4 wells, decreased in 47 wells, and did not change in 4 wells. On average, MtBE concentrations decreased 65% among 47 wells whereas MtBE concentrations increased 17% among 4 wells between 2005 and 2015. The percent change in detection frequency from 2005 to 2015 (the decontamination rate) was lowest (45.5%) in high-population-density areas and in wells completed in the Berwick Formation geologic units. The decontamination rate was the highest (78.6%) where population densities were low and wells were completed in bedrock composed of granite, metamorphic, and mafic rocks. Wells in the Berwick Formation are characteristically deeper and have lower yields than wells in other rock types and have shallower overburden cover, which may allow for more rapid transport of MtBE from land-surface releases. Low-yielding, deep bedrock wells may require large contributing areas to achieve adequate well yield, and thus have a greater chance of intercepting MtBE, in addition to diluting contaminants at a slower rate and thus requiring more time to decontaminate.