Ground water chlorinated ethenes in tree trunks: case studies, influence of recharge, and potential degradation mechanism
Trichloroethene (TCE) was detected in cores of trees growing above TCE-contaminated ground at three sites: the Carswell Golf Course in Texas, Air Force Plant PJKS in Colorado, and Naval Weapons Station Charleston in South Carolina. This was true even when the depth to water was 7.9 m or when the contaminated aquifer was confined beneath ~3 m of clay. Additional ground water contaminants detected in the tree cores were cis–1,2-dichloroethene at two sites and tetrachloroethene at one site. Thus, tree coring can be a rapid and effective means of locating shallow subsurface chlorinated ethenes and possibly identifying zones of active TCE dechlorination. Tree cores collected over time were useful in identifying the onset of ground water contamination. Several factors affecting chlorinated ethene concentrations in tree cores were identified in this investigation. The factors include ground water chlorinated ethene concentrations and depth to ground water contamination. In addition, differing TCE concentrations around the trunk of some trees appear to be related to the roots deriving water from differing areas. Opportunistic uptake of infiltrating rainfall can dilute prerain TCE concentrations in the trunk. TCE concentrations in core headspace may differ among some tree species. In some trees, infestation of bacteria in decaying heartwood may provide a TCE dechlorination mechanism within the trunk.