Electrical methods [electrical profiling and sounding, induced polarization (IP), and self-potential (SP)], combined with geochemical and hydrochemical surveys, were applied to characterize shallow sediments at a site contaminated by oil-related brines. The site is located within the Romashkinskoye oil field (Tatarstan Republic, Russian Federation). Results of geochemical and hydrochemical surveys, as well as those of electrical profiling, revealed no individual haloes of contaminant in the soil and groundwater, which suggests that the entire site is contaminated. Vertical electrical IP soundings (VES-IP) allowed us to obtain the stratigraphic characteristics of the site and to distinguish a shallow aquifer among clayey aquitards.
Interpretation of SP data on the basis of forward numerical modeling helped us to develop a groundwater-flow model of the site. To reduce ambiguities, we kept fixed the values of layer resistivity derived from the inverted VES-IP data. Boundary conditions on water head and water flow were based on drilling and sampling data. We varied only the values of hydraulic conductivity to fit the calculated SP values to the measured SP values. We found a strong misfit between the measured and calculated SP values for the one-aquifer model. By inferring a second, deeper-seated aquifer, we computed a two-aquifer model that produced a satisfactory SP fit.