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Assessment of potential for natural attenuation of chlorinated ethenes and ethanes in ground water at a petrochemical reclamation site, Harris County, Texas

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4121

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Abstract

Redox conditions in the Numerous Sand Channels Zone beneath a petrochemical reclamation site in Harris County, Texas, range from sulfate reducing to methanogenic as indicated by the presence of methane in ground water and the range of molecular hydrogen concentrations. Assessment of the potential for reductive dechlorination using BIOCHLOR as a screening tool indicated conditions favoring anaerobic degradation of chlorinated organic compounds in the Numerous Sand Channels Zone. Evidence supporting reductive dechlorination includes apparently biogenic cis-1,2-dichloroethene; an increased ratio of 1,2-dichloroethane to 1,1,2-trichloroethane downgradient from the assumed contaminant source area; ethene and methane concentrations greater than background concentrations within the area of the contaminant plume; and a positive correlation of the ratio of ethene to vinyl chloride as a function of methane concentrations. The body of evidence presented in this report argues for hydrogenolysis of trichloroethene to cis-1,2-dichloroethene; of 1,1,2-trichloroethane to 1,2-dichloroethane; and of vinyl chloride to ethene within the Numerous Sand Channels Zone. Simulations using BIOCHLOR yielded apparent first-order decay constants for reductive dechlorination in the sequence Tetrachloroethene --> trichloroethene --> cis-1,2-dichloroethene --> vinyl chloride --> ethene within the range of literature values reported for each compound and apparent first-order decay constants for reductive dechlorination in the sequence 1,1,2-trichloroethane --> 1,2-dichloroethane slightly greater than literature values reported for each compound along the upgradient segment of a simulated ground-water flowpath. Except for vinyl chloride, apparent rates of reductive dechlorination for all simulated species show a marked decrease along the downgradient segment of the simulated ground-water flowpath. Evidence for reductive dechlorination of chlorinated ethenes within the Numerous Sand Channels Zone indicates potential for natural attenuation of chlorinated ethenes. Reductive dechlorination of chlorinated ethanes apparently occurs to a lesser extent, indicating relatively less potential for natural attenuation of chlorinated ethanes. Additional data are needed on the concentrations and distribution of chlorinated ethenes and ethanes in individual fine sand intervals of the Numerous Sand Channels Zone. This information, combined with lower minimum reporting levels for future chloroethane analyses, might enable a more complete and quantitative assessment of the potential for natural attenuation at the site.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Assessment of potential for natural attenuation of chlorinated ethenes and ethanes in ground water at a petrochemical reclamation site, Harris County, Texas
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
2000-4121
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2000
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
Description:
iii, 23 p. : col. ill., col. maps ; 28 cm.