Release of contaminants from a heterogeneously fractured low permeability unit underlying a DNAPL source zone

Dearden, R.A.; Noy, D.J.; Lelliott, M.R.; Wilson, R.; Wealthall, G.P.. 2013 Release of contaminants from a heterogeneously fractured low permeability unit underlying a DNAPL source zone. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 153.

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The invasion of DNAPL into fractured low permeability deposits results in the formation of secondary source zones that represent a long-term source of VOCs to adjacent aquifers. We present data from a site underlain by a fractured mudstone contaminated with TCE DNAPL that was poised for release following remediation of the overlying aquifer. Observations of contaminant distributions and fracture networks from the site and a nearby mudstone exposure respectively, enabled prediction of the imminent aquifer recontamination. The fractures, likely formed by gypsum dissolution, were characterised by fracture apertures and spacings that ranged from 0.01 to 49 mm and 0.047 to 3.37 m (10th and 90th percentile values) respectively. Numerical model results show that prediction of outward mass flux in the first year was highly variable (8 to 32 g/m2/d for an initial constant concentration with depth profile) and dependent on both the fracture spacing and aperture and the contaminant distribution. However after 1 year, assuming a heterogeneous distribution of fractures, mass flux was predictable within a narrow range of values (at 20 years; 0.04-0.08 g/m2/d). Similar results were obtained from more typical fracture networks with spacings of 0.1 to 0.5 m and apertures of 10 to 100 µm. These results suggest that when considering potential recontamination in a bounding aquifer, fracture characterisation may not be necessary and instead the focus should be on determining the surface area contributing contaminant mass to an aquifer, the contaminant concentration depth profiles, the hydraulic properties of the receiving aquifer and the elapsed time since aquifer remediation.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Additional Keywords: Fracture, back diffusion, secondary source zone, DNAPL, non-NAPL source zone, GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Point source pollution
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
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Date made live: 23 Jul 2012 14:04 +0 (UTC)

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