Bioremediation in fractured rock: 1. Modeling to inform design, monitoring, and expectations

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Field characterization of a trichloroethene (TCE) source area in fractured mudstones produced a detailed understanding of the geology, contaminant distribution in fractures and the rock matrix, and hydraulic and transport properties. Groundwater flow and chemical transport modeling that synthesized the field characterization information proved critical for designing bioremediation of the source area. The planned bioremediation involved injecting emulsified vegetable oil and bacteria to enhance the naturally occurring biodegradation of TCE. The flow and transport modeling showed that injection will spread amendments widely over a zone of lower‐permeability fractures, with long residence times expected because of small velocities after injection and sorption of emulsified vegetable oil onto solids. Amendments transported out of this zone will be diluted by groundwater flux from other areas, limiting bioremediation effectiveness downgradient. At nearby pumping wells, further dilution is expected to make bioremediation effects undetectable in the pumped water. The results emphasize that in fracture‐dominated flow regimes, the extent of injected amendments cannot be conceptualized using simple homogeneous models of groundwater flow commonly adopted to design injections in unconsolidated porous media (e.g., radial diverging or dipole flow regimes). Instead, it is important to synthesize site characterization information using a groundwater flow model that includes discrete features representing high‐ and low‐permeability fractures. This type of model accounts for the highly heterogeneous hydraulic conductivity and groundwater fluxes in fractured‐rock aquifers, and facilitates designing injection strategies that target specific volumes of the aquifer and maximize the distribution of amendments over these volumes.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Bioremediation in fractured rock: 1. Modeling to inform design, monitoring, and expectations
Series title Groundwater
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12585
Volume 56
Issue 2
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 17 p.
First page 300
Last page 316
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