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TitleStable isotopes of nitrate reflect natural attenuation of propellant residues on military training ranges
AuthorBordeleau, G; Savard, M M; Martel, R; Smirnoff, A; Ampleman, G; Thiboutot, S
SourceEnvironmental Science & Technology (ES & T) vol. 47, no. 15, 2013 p. 8265-8272,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20120361
PublisherAmerican Chemical Society (ACS)
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
Subjectsenvironmental geology; geochemistry; nitrate; nitrogen; carbon nitrogen ratios; pore water samples
ProgramGroundwater Geoscience, Aquifer Assessment & support to mapping
Released2013 07 11
AbstractNitroglycerin (NG) and nitrocellulose (NC) are constituents of double-base propellants used notably for firing anti-tank ammunitions. Nitroglycerin was detected in soil and water samples from the unsaturated zone (pore water) at an active anti-tank firing position, where the presence of high nitrate (NO3-) concentrations suggests that natural attenuation of NG is occurring. However, concentrations alone cannot assess if NG is the source of NO3-, nor can they determine which degradation processes are involved. To address this issue, isotopic ratios (d15N, d18O) were measured for NO3- produced from NG and NC through various controlled degradation processes, and compared with ratios measured in field pore water samples. Results indicate that propellant combustion, and degradation mediated by soil organic carbon, produced the observed NO3- in pore water at this site. Moreover, isotopic results are presented for NO3- produced through photolysis of propellant constituents, which could be a dominant process at other sites. The isotopic data presented here constitute novel information regarding a source of NO3- that was practically not documented before, and a basis to study the contamination by energetic materials in different contexts.