Environmental monitoring accompanies construction of major research facility in Darmstadt:

80 groundwater observation wells for FAIR particle accelerator site

Installation of the first ground water observation well (Photo: Markus Bernards for FAIR)

Ground water management on FAIR building site: Extracted water will be fed back into ground water supplies (Illustration: Carola Pomplun for FAIR)

Work is currently underway to install the first of 80 groundwater observation wells at the new FAIR particle accelerator construction site in Darmstadt, Germany. They will be used to monitor groundwater levels and water quality. The observation wells are a crucial element in the active groundwater management plan flanking FAIR construction activities. The aim is to protect the environs of planned construction pits by localising the drop in groundwater as effectively as possible.


Construction work on the FAIR buildings and accelerator tunnel will commence at the end of the year. The first stage will involve the excavation of open pits. In order to prevent these from filling with water, the surrounding groundwater level will have to be lowered. The extracted water will be fed back into groundwater supplies in the immediate vicinity of the pits using around 50 injection wells. This should largely restrict the impact of the drop to the construction site itself. The aim is to protect habitats that are highly sensitive to water levels, woodland and nearby groundwater wells, but also the existing accelerator facility buildings of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research. In these areas, the groundwater levels should remain within the natural range of fluctuation.


As an additional protective measure, the size of the construction pits will be kept to a minimum. The 1.1-kilometre tunnel will be built in stages – around 200 metres at a time. This means that the groundwater will only be lowered in the section currently under construction.


As part of the approval process required by German water law, external assessors worked out how to position the construction pits and injection wells to localise the drop in water. The purpose of the observation wells is to check groundwater levels continually during the construction phase. The 80 new groundwater observation wells plus those already installed will form a dense network of over 90 observation wells that will extend beyond the construction site itself over a radius of several hundred metres.


Work on stabilising the subsoil with 1,500 piles will commence soon and the groundwater observation wells will have the additional task of monitoring any foreign matter entering the groundwater during the drilling work. Active groundwater management will also help to minimise any impact on the scientific work carried out by GSI, which involves the use of sensitive equipment.


Further information on FAIR construction

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