A natural gradient experiment on solute transport in a sand aquifer: 3. Retardation estimates and mass balances for organic solutes


  • Paul V. Roberts,

  • Mark N. Goltz,

  • Douglas M. Mackay


The long-term behavior of five organic solutes during transport over a period of 2 years in ground water under natural gradient conditions was characterized quantitatively by means of moment estimates. Total mass was conserved for two of the organic compounds, carbon tetrachloride and tetrachloroethylene, while the total mass declined for three other compounds, bromoform, 1,2-dichlorobenzene, and hexachloroethane. The declines in mass for the latter three compounds are interpreted as evidence of transformation of the compounds. Retardation factors for the organic solutes, relative to chloride, ranged from 1.5 to 9.0, being generally greater for the more strongly hydrophobic compounds. The retardation is attributed to sorption. The apparent retardation factor increased markedly for all compounds over the duration of the experiment, by as much as 150%. Results from temporal and spatial sampling were in good agreement when compared at the same scale of time and distance.