Mass Flux Analysis of Abiotic Tetrachloroethene Dense Nonaqueous Phase Liquid Pool Dissolution in a Heterogeneous Flow Environment

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


Porous aquifer materials are often characterized by layered heterogeneities that influence groundwater flow and present complexities in contaminant transport modeling. Such flow variations also have the potential to impact the dissolution flux from dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) pools. This study examined how these heterogeneous flow conditions affected the dissolution of a tetrachloroethene (PCE) pool in a two-dimensional intermediate-scale flow cell containing coarse sand. A steady-state mass-balance approach was used to calculate the PCE dissolution rate at three different flow rates. As expected, aqueous PCE concentrations increased along the length of the PCE pool and higher flow rates decreased the aqueous PCE concentration in the effluent. Nonreactive tracer studies at two flow rates confirmed the presence of a vertical flow gradient, with the most rapid velocity located at the bottom of the tank. These results suggest that flow focusing occurred near the DNAPL pool. Effluent PCE concentrations and pool dissolution flux rates were compared to model predictions assuming local equilibrium (LE) conditions at the DNAPL pool/aqueous phase interface and a uniform distribution of flow. The LE model did not describe the data well, even over a wide range of PCE solubility and macroscopic transverse dispersivity values. Model predictions assuming nonequilibrium mass-transfer-limited conditions and accounting for vertical flow gradients, however, resulted in a better fit to the data. These results have important implications for evaluating DNAPL pool dissolution in the field where subsurface heterogeneities are likely to be present.

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Groundwater Monitoring and Remediation