Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mark C. Rains, Ph.D.


Clay settling area, Geochemical tracer, Preferential transport, Desiccation crack, Perched aquifer


The objective of this study was to use applied and naturally-occurring geochemical tracers to study the hydrology of clay settling areas (CSAs) and the hydrological connectivity between CSAs and surrounding hydrological landscapes. The study site is located on the Fort Meade Mine in Polk County, Florida. The surface of the CSA is covered in desiccation cracks which swell and shrink in response to wetting and drying. Bromide was used as an applied tracer to study hydrological processes in the upper part of the CSA. Bromide infiltrated rapidly and perched on an uncracked massive sublayer. Bromide concentrations attenuated in the upper part of the profile without being translated vertically down through the lower part of the profile suggesting that bromide was lost to lateral rather than to vertical downward transport. Infiltration and lateral flow were rapid suggesting that preferential flow through desiccation cracks and other macropores likely dominates flow in the upper part of the profile. Naturally-occurring dissolved constituents and stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen were used as naturally-occurring tracers to study the hydrological connectivity between the CSA and the surrounding hydrological landscape. The relative contributions of source waters were determined using a two-end, mass-balance mixing model with sodium as a conservative natural tracer. On average, water samples downgradient from the CSA were ~80% rainfall/ambient water and ~20% CSA water. Discharge from the CSA to the surrounding surface water bodies and surficial aquifer occurs laterally over, through, and/or under the berms and/or vertically through the thick uncracked massive sublayer. However, the precise flowpaths from the CSA to the surrounding hydrological landscape are unclear and the fluxes remain unquantified, so the effects of CSAs on the hydrology of the surrounding and underlying hydrological landscape also remain unquantified.