A field investigation of multispecies reactive transport was conducted in a well-characterized, sand and gravel aquifer on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The aquifer is characterized by regions of differing chemical conditions caused by the disposal of secondary sewage effluent. Ten thousand liters of groundwater with added tracers (Br, Cr(VI), and BDTA complexed with Pb, Zn, Cu, and Ni) were injected into the aquifer and distributions of the tracers were monitored for 15 months. Most of the tracers were transported more than 200 m; transport was quantified using spatial moments computed from the results of a series of synoptic samplings. Cr(VI) transport was retarded relative to Br; the retardation factor varied from 1.1 to 2.4 and was dependent on chemical conditions. At 314 days after the injection, dissolved Cr(VI) mass in the tracer cloud had decreased 85%, with the likely cause being reduction to Cr(III) in a suboxic region of the aquifer. Transport of the metal-EDTA complexes was affected by aqueous complexation, adsorption, and dissolution-precipitation reactions of Fe oxyhydroxide minerals in the aquifer sediments. Dissolved Pb-EDTA complexes disappeared from the tracer cloud within 85 days, probably due to metal exchange reactions with Fe and adsorbed Zn (present prior to the injection from contamination by the sewage effluent). About 30% of the Cu-EDTA complexes remained within the tracer cloud 314 days after injection, even though the thermodynamic stability of the Pb-EDTA complex is greater than Cu-EDTA. It is hypothesized that stronger adsorption of Pb2+ to the aquifer sediments causes the Pb-EDTA complex to disassociate to a greater degree than the Cu-EDTA complex. The mass of dissolved Zn-EDTA increased during the first 175 days of the tracer test to 140% of the mass injected, with the increase due to desorption of sewage-derived Zn. Dissolved Ni-EDTA mass remained nearly constant throughout the tracer test, apparently only participating in reversible adsorption reactions. The results of the field experiment provide a chemically complex data set that can be used in the testing of reactive transport models of flow coupled with chemical reactions.
Additional publication details
Multispecies reactive tracer test in an aquifer with spatially variable chemical conditions