Abstract

The search for new landfill sites in the Greater Toronto area of southern Ontario, Canada, is producing a wealth of data regarding the subsurface stratigraphy and geometry of Late Wisconsin (<25 ka) till deposits. Till strata are favoured as landfill substrates because of their wide surface extent, thickness (maximum ~60 m), high degree of overconsolidation, apparently massive character, and low permeability. However, problems are emerging where surface contaminants have migrated through till deposits into underlying aquifers along poorly understood transport paths. This paper reports the results of a detailed shallow seismic reflection investigation of a proposed 275 ha landfill site 40 km northeast of Toronto near Whitevale, where previous hydrochemical analysis and hydrogeological monitoring identified rapid vertical recharge of contaminated surface waters through Late Wisconsin tills up to 60 m thick. Seismic reflection data are ground truthed by drilling (36 holes; total drilled 3157 m), coring (1600 m), downhole geophysical logging, and outcrop data. The site stratigraphy at Whitevale consists of an uppermost Late Wisconsin till (Halton Till) separated from a lower till (informally named Northern till) by a silt, sand, and gravel complex. Seismic reflection profiles identify the presence of well-defined reflectors within the Northern till, which are correlated in outcrop with laterally extensive erosion surfaces overlain by sheet-like sands and gravels, up to 1 m thick, and boulder concentrations. Erosion surfaces and associated sediments record episodic scouring by subglacial meltwaters and provide potential "hydraulic windows" for the movement of surface contaminants through the till into underlying aquifers.

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