We have applied traveltime tomography to 3D seismic refraction data collected at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in an approximately 95×40-m area over a shallow (<20m) groundwater contamination site. The purpose of this study is to test the ability of 3D first-arrival-time data to characterize the shallow environment and aid remediation efforts. The aquifer is bounded below by a clay aquiclude, into which a paleochannel has been incised and acts as a trap for dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) contaminants. A regularized nonlinear tomographic approach was applied to 187,877 first-arrival traveltimes to obtain the smoothest minimum-structure 3D velocity model. The resulting velocity model contains a velocity increase from less than 300to1500m/s in the upper 15 m. The model also contains a north-south-trending low-velocity feature interpreted to be the paleochannel, based on more than 100 wells in the area. Checkerboard tests show 7.510m lateral resolution throughout most of the model.

The preferred final model was chosen after a systematic test of the free parameters involved in the tomographic approach, including the starting model. The final velocity model compares favorably with a 3D poststack depth migration and 2D waveform inversion of coincident reflection data. While the long-wavelength features of the model reveal the primary target of the survey, the paleochannel, the velocity model is likely a very smooth characterization of the true velocity structure, particularly in the vertical direction, given the size of the first Fresnel zone for these data.

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