Experimental Study of the Effects of DNAPL Distribution on Mass Rebound


Corresponding author: Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, 1500 Illinois St, Golden, CO 80401; 303-384-2126; fax: 303-273-3413; tillanga@mines.edu


The release of stored dissolved contaminants from low permeability zones contributes to plume persistence beyond the time when dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) has completely dissolved. This is fundamental to successfully meeting acceptable low concentrations in groundwater that are driven by site-specific cleanup goals. The study goals were to assess the role of DNAPL entrapment morphology on mass storage and plume longevity. As controlled field studies are not feasible, two-dimensional (2D) test tanks were used to quantify the significance of mass loading processes from source dissolution and stored mass rebound. A simple two-layer soil domain representing a high permeable formation sand overlying a zone of lower permeability sand was used in the tests. DNAPL mass depletion through dissolution was monitored via X-ray photon attenuation, and effluent samples were used to monitor the plume. These data enabled analysis of the DNAPL distribution, the dissolved plume, and the dissolved phase distribution within the low permeability layer. Tests in an intermediate tank showed that mass storage contributes substantially to plume longevity. Detectable effluent concentrations persisted long after DNAPL depletion. The small tank results indicated that the DNAPL morphology influenced the flow field and caused distinctive transport mechanisms contributing to mass storage. Zones of high DNAPL saturation at the interface between the low and high permeability layers exhibited flow bypassing and diffusion dominated transport into the low permeability layer. In the absence of a highly saturated DNAPL zone near the soil interface the contaminant penetrated deeper into the low permeability layer caused by a combination of advection and diffusion.