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Chlorofluorocarbons are stable, synthetic organic compounds that were developed in the early 1930s as safe alternatives to ammonia and sulfur dioxide in refrigeration and have been used in a wide range of industrial and refrigerant applications. N., Busenberg, Eurybiades, Drenkard, Stefan, and Schlosser, Peter, 1996, Age-dating of shallow groundwater with chlorofluorocarbons, tritium/helium 3, and flow path analysis, southern New Jersey coastal plain: Water Resources Research, v. Production of CFC-12 (dichlorodifluoromethane, CF). CFC-11 and CFC-12 were used as coolants in air conditioning and refrigeration, blowing agents in foams, insulation, and packing materials, propellants in aerosol cans, and as solvents.

A closed path is established between the well or pump to a valve system that is used to fill glass ampoules with water, creating a headspace with CFC-free, ultra-pure nitrogen gas. Age is determined from CFCs by relating their measured concentrations in ground water back to known historical atmospheric concentrations and/or to calculated concentrations expected in water in equilibrium with air.

As with any environmental tracer, age applies to the date of introduction of the chemical substance into the water, and not to the water itself.

In the atmosphere, these substances have mixed and spread worldwide.

These atmospheric substances, such as tritium (H) in water vapor from detonation of nuclear bombs in the 1950s and early 1960s,and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from refrigeration and other uses from the 1950s through the 1980s, dissolve in precipitation, become incorporated in the Earth’s hydrologic cycle, and can be found in ground water that has been recharged within the past 50 years.

CFCs also can be used to trace seepage from rivers into ground-water systems, provide diagnostic tools for detection and early warning of leakage from landfills and septic tanks, and to assess susceptibility of water-supply wells to contamination from near-surface sources.

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