Integration of traditional and innovative characterization techniques for flux-based assessment of Dense Non-aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL) sites

N.B. Basu, P. Suresh, C. Rao, I.C. Poyer, S. Nandy, M. Mallavarapu, R. Naidu, G.B. Davis, Bradley Patterson, M.D. Annable, K. Hatfield

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Key attributes of the source zone and the expanding dissolved plume at a trichloroethene (TCE) site in Australia were evaluated using trends in groundwater monitoring data along with data from on-line volatile organic compound (VOC) samplers and passive flux meters (PFMs) deployed in selected wells. These data indicate that: (1) residual TCE source mass in the saturated zone, estimated using two innovative techniques, is small ( 10 kg), which is also reflected in small source mass discharge ( 3 g/day); (2) the plume is disconnecting, based on TCE concentration contours and TCE fluxes in wells along a longitudinal transect; (3) there is minimal biodegradation, based on TCE mass discharge of 6 g/day at a plume control plane 175 m from source, which is also consistent with aerobic geochemical conditions observed in the plume; and (4) residual TCE in the vadose zone provides episodic inputs of TCE mass to the plume during infiltration/recharge events. TCE flux data also suggest that the small residual TCE source mass is present in the low-permeability zones, thus making source treatment difficult. Our analysis, based on a synthesis of the archived data and new data, suggests that source treatment is unwarranted, and that containment of the large TCE plume ( 1.2 km long, 0.3 km wide; 17 m deep; 2000–2500 kg TCE mass) or institutional controls, along with a long-term flux monitoring program, might be necessary. The flux-based site management approach outlined in this paper provides a novel way of looking beyond the complexities of groundwater contamination in heterogeneous domains, to make intelligent and informed site decisions based on strategic measurement of the appropriate metrics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-172
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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