Former Town Dump

Former Town Dump - Geological Photo - Jonathan Wells

Former Town Dump - Diagram


In the 1980s and ‘90s, I spent time around many former dumps or landfills sampling groundwater wells that revealed contaminants that had leaked in the past. This former dump was active in the early 1900s and served a small village in rural New England. Up until waste laws were written in the 1960s through 1980s, hazardous wastes were often disposed of in dumps.

Today, study of the groundwater at the site indicates that trichloroethylene (TCE) is in the groundwater. TCE, among the most common groundwater contaminants, was widely used as a metal parts degreaser starting in the 1930s. Its use declined significantly in the 1970s due to both environmental regulations and economic factors.

In photographing hazardous waste sites, I am most interested in learning what the geologic framework is, discovering the direction of groundwater flow, and then identifying the types and extent of the contaminants in the groundwater. Here I found out what the geologic layers were from geologic reports. I then used the TCE data from the groundwater monitoring wells and interpreted where I think the TCE may exist. I represented the groundwater with a faint blue overlay (difficult to see at this scale) and then portrayed the TCE with colored overlays. Each overlay represents different concentrations of TCE in the groundwater. The purple has the highest concentration.