Biogeochemistry, Bioremediation, Biotechnology, Contamination, Diesel fuels, Electric conductivity, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Groundwater, Groundwater pollution, Hydrocarbons, Hydrogeology, Impurities, Pollution, Signal to noise ratio, Contaminant concentrations, Electrical resistivity anomalies, Electrical resistivity tomography, Environmental parameter, Groundwater level fluctuation, Hydrocarbon contamination, Hydrogeological conditions, Spatio-temporal resolution, Groundwater geochemistry, Article, Belgium, Biodegradation, Environmental, Electricity, Environmental Monitoring, Models, Theoretical, Seasons, Soil, Temperature, Tomography, Water Pollutants, Chemical, Engineering, computing & technology :: Geological, petroleum & mining engineering, and Ingénierie, informatique & technologie :: Géologie, ingénierie du pétrole & des mines
Adequate management of contaminated sites requires information with improved spatio-temporal resolution, in particular to assess bio-geochemical processes, such as the transformation and degradation of contaminants, precipitation of minerals or changes in groundwater geochemistry occurring during and after remediation procedures. Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT), a geophysical method sensitive to pore-fluid and pore-geometry properties, permits to gain quasi-continuous information about subsurface properties in real-time and has been consequently widely used for the characterization of hydrocarbon-impacted sediments. However, its application for the long-term monitoring of processes accompanying natural or engineered bioremediation is still difficult due to the poor understanding of the role that biogeochemical processes play in the electrical signatures. For in-situ studies, the task is further complicated by the variable signal-to-noise ratio and the variations of environmental parameters leading to resolution changes in the electrical images. In this work, we present ERT imaging results for data collected over a period of two years on a site affected by a diesel fuel contamination and undergoing bioremediation. We report low electrical resistivity anomalies in areas associated to the highest contaminant concentrations likely due transformations of the contaminant due to microbial activity and accompanying release of metabolic products. We also report large seasonal variations of the bulk electrical resistivity in the contaminated areas in correlation with temperature and groundwater level fluctuations. However, the amplitude of bulk electrical resistivity variations largely exceeds the amplitude expected given existing petrophysical models. Our results suggest that the variations in electrical properties are mainly controlled by microbial activity which in turn depends on soil temperature and hydrogeological conditions. Therefore, ERT can be suggested as a promising tool to track microbial activity during bioremediation even though further research is still needed to completely understand the bio-geochemical processes involved and their impact on electrical signatures. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.