Mass-transfer and mass-flux dynamics of chlorinated solvents in heterogeneous systems (2000-2015)

Project Leader(s): 
Problem: 

Chlorinated organic compounds are among the most common groundwater contaminants in the U.S. and elsewhere due to their prior widespread use for numerous industrial and commercial applications. This extensive groundwater contamination can pose significant risks to human health, and also significantly impact regional water resources sustainability. Conducting accurate risk assessments and implementing efficient, cost-effective remediation efforts for hazardous waste sites requires an understanding of contaminant distribution and transport in the subsurface.

The  distribution, mass-transfer dynamics, and mass flux of chlorinated solvents and other organic liquids in the subsurface have been examined in numerous studies conducted over the past few decades. Thus, there exists a significant level of information and understanding about the behavior of organic liquid contaminants in the subsurface. However, the current understanding of mass-transfer and mass-flux processes is far from complete, and many challenges remain.

Dr. Mark Brusseau and his research group have conducted extensive research at the Tucson International Airport Area Superfund site for the past two decades. Their studies examine the distribution, mass-transfer, and remediation of chlorinated solvents in heterogeneous porous media. They have conducted field tests, mathematical modeling studies, and laboratory investigations to improve understanding of contaminant transport behavior at the site, to identify constraints to remediation, and to assess remediation effectiveness.

Significance: 

These studies will examine mechanistic behavior ranging from the pore scale to the field scale, and to integrate with solution-oriented research conducted in conjunction with actual hazardous waste sites.

Specific Aims: 

1. Improve the mechanistic (pore-scale) understanding of the interfacial and mass-transfer behavior of immiscible liquids in multiphase systems.
2. Investigate the influence of heterogeneity, source-zone aging, and poorly-accessible NAPL on longterm mass-flux dynamics for aqueous and vapor-phase systems.
3. Determine the mass removal, mass flux, and plume contraction behavior of chlorinated solvents at the field scale.
4. Test the efficacy of an innovative method for in-situ characterization of mass transfer and mass flux, and compare the performance of this and several existing methods.
5. Integrate process information across spatial and temporal scales to improve conceptual and mathematical models.

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