A high spatial resolution data set documenting carbon and sulfur isotope fractionation at a tar oil-contaminated, sulfate-reducing field site was analyzed with a reactive transport model. Within a comprehensive numerical model, the study links the distinctive observed isotope depth profiles with the degradation of various monoaromatic and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (BTEX/PAHs) under sulfate-reducing conditions. In the numerical model, microbial dynamics were simulated explicitly and isotope fractionation was directly linked to the differential microbial uptake of lighter and heavier carbon isotopes during microbial growth. Measured depth profiles from a multilevel sampling well with high spatial resolution served as key constraints for the parametrization of the model simulations. The results of the numerical simulations illustrate particularly well the evolution of the isotope signature of toluene, which is the most rapidly degrading compound and the most important reductant at the site. The resulting depth profiles at the observation well show distinct differences between the small isotopic enrichment in the contaminant plume core and the much stronger enrichment of up to 3.3‰ at the plume fringes.
Prommer, H., Rolle, M., Einsiedl, F., & Griebler, C. (2009). Biogeochemical and isotopic gradients in a BTEX/PAH contaminant plume : model-based interpretation of a high-resolution field data set. Environmental Science & Technology, 43(21), 8206-8212. https://doi.org/10.1021/es901142a