Environmental Services Team employees Matt Graves (left) and Phillip Martello sample groundwater in December 2017

You may not be able to see it, but there is water constantly moving beneath the earth’s surface. Groundwater fills the space between soil particles and rocks. As it flows, groundwater can be affected by tides, rainfall and time of year. Groundwater testing is required for certain areas of the port due to long-term monitoring requirements associated with legacy cleanup sites. While groundwater monitoring has occurred at the Port of Vancouver USA for decades, with the addition of highly skilled staff, the port has been conducting voluntary sampling since 2013.

Every 18 months, our environmental team sets up a sampling station as they visit each well that requires testing. Using a water pump, disposable tubing, sampling bottles and other equipment, the team begins the methodical process of sampling groundwater that flows beneath port property.

While the water pump is operating, the team checks the water level in the well to record the level of the water table. When combined with data from the other wells, this information paints a picture of how and where groundwater is flowing.  

Besides checking groundwater levels, our environmental team gathers multiple samples and sends them to a lab where they are checked for sulfates, nitrates, iron, hydrocarbons and more. To crosscheck for inaccuracies, additional samples called field duplicates are also taken. Test results are returned in a little over a week and a report is provided to the Department of Ecology, which ensures the samples comply with cleanup objectives for each site.