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Published: August 21st 2010
After a somewhat difficult week we decided to go away for the weekend. We are in Kampong Chnang this election eve. The town is located on the Tonle Sap river, just south of the Tonle Sap Lake. The town itself is not flash but the countryside around it is lush and green with occasional hills! Makes a nice change from the flat floodplain where we live.
The week's difficulties centred around my fieldwork which began with surveying on Monday, well installation and borehole drilling on Wednesday through friday and sample submission Friday pm.
The surveying went well despite one mishap, I forgot the bloody tape measure so John had to measure distance with the staff. It was hot. Damn hot. John, being pole boy copped the brunt of the heat; Sua (our translator and survey scribe) and I managed to find occasional bits of shade. John, as a typical man didn't put sun screen on and only had a baseball cap so he came back beetroot red. That'll learn 'im.
The bit below is only for enviro science nerds. Skip the next couple of paragraphs if you are not interested in well installation and soil sampling.
managed to find the driller on Monday and with the help of Sua, we held an in depth meeting into drilling methodology which involves using a hollow auger which is hand operated. Water is pumped down the rod which is then brought up from the hole to the surface along with drill cuttings (see pictures). The upshot being, collecting uncontaminated soil samples will be nigh on impossible as groundwater is used as drilling fluid (groundwater being arsenic rich will skew my sample results) . As it turned out, the drilling fluid used was from surface water and was not terribly contaminated. Sua did an arsenic field test before the drilling started and the result was 10 parts per billion which is not terrible. I am going to use that as my detection limit. It's the best I can do. As my research is comparing arsenic concentrations below different geomorphic units, as long as I use the same drilling methods, sample comparison can still be made and my data will still be viable. (all you contam. people can post me advice on this if you like). We managed to install two wells to 37m BGL and two boreholes to 30m BGL
Offering to the Buddha
Done every well or borehole
which is pretty good going for 2 1/2 days.
Sample collection proceeded apace, John being an instrumental part of the team. I realised on thursday that my holding time for total organic carbon (TOC) was running out so we had to dash from my field site to the couriers in Phnom Penh on Friday afternoon only to be told that I needed a permit to export soils as they were classed as a 'commodity'. And how long would it take to get a permit? One week. Except that my holding time for 5 samples would run out three days before I would even be granted a permit and the one week is only if you pay a "facilitator" $390!!!! If you don't pay and decide to try to wade through the beauracracy yourself it could take 6 weeks. After a week of field work in 37 degree heat and 97% humidity, with no toilets and only rice with pork (quite nice actually and only $3 for four people) to eat every day, John had to scrape me up off the floor after hearing that news.
Anyway with the help of my supervisor at RDI we managed to call a couple
of labs in Phnom Penh, however one could only do TOC and although the other could do arsenic, iron and TOC, their analytical methodology for Arsenic is very dodgy. We decided to go with Mr dodgy. What other choice did I have? I'm going to get them to preserve part of each sample so that I can look around for another lab to get them analysed for arsenic.
After all that carry on we decided we needed a drink at a place with internet access. We've been less than impressed with the internet service at RDI. It's been down for most of the week. "To I'imprevu" we told our man, "and step on it, we have margaritas to demolish". Ah, it was heavenly to sit at the bar drinking cocktails next to the pool while catching up on emails and skyping offspring.
Anyway we are now in Kampng Chnang which is about 2 1/2 hours north of Phnom Penh on the Tonle Sap River. It's a nice sleepy riverside town. We have been on a tour of the town by moto - fish markets, floating villages, slums, partially constructed temple etc. The moto driver was a tad embarrassed by
the distinct lack of tourist attractions in the town but he made a very brave face of it. But then he took us on a tour of the surrounding villages which was delightful. The scenery was beautiful and we were taken on a tour of all the small family run clay pot making facilities that Kampong Chnang is famous for. He then took us to some rice paddies and invited us to have a walk through them. It sounds weird but it was lovely being among the fields and workers etc. Anyway we are going on another tour with him tomorrow across the river to see more village and pagodas but this time we will be taking two motos!
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