JEEG, December 2015, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp. 319–335 DOI:10.2113/JEEG20.4.319
Monitoring wells are installed to intercept contaminants inadvertently discharged from inground structures designed to retain salt-affected wastewaters; however, several difficulties with collection and data interpretation limit their effectiveness. Therefore, improved monitoring methods are needed. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of resistivity array technology as an early warning system to monitor for unintended basin discharge. Subsurface resistivity arrays were installed at two Nebraska sites: a beef cattle feedyard located at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska (FyA) and a commercial cattle feeding operation (FyB). Monitoring well data did not identify any unintended discharge events during the study period. However, the resistivity array (RA) system detected a discharge event that was localized in the non-saturated zone adjacent to the pond at FyB within one day following a precipitation event. Monitoring the unsaturated portion allows the RA system a capacity beyond traditional monitoring wells, which can only intercept discharge carried in groundwater. Also, the RA system effectively measured a larger area (i.e., a virtual curtain) compared to the point measure typical of monitoring wells. Therefore, RA technology provides broader coverage and is more tolerant to placement issues for intercepting discharge. Finally, the capacity to automate the RA system provides a means to continuously monitor unintended subsurface discharge from runoff holding ponds. This continuous monitoring system is more likely to detect discharge events than the bi-annual sampling typically required for monitoring wells. Automatic and continuous monitoring provides feedyard operators options to better manage environmental impacts associated with runoff holding ponds.