Low-permeability, non-reactive barrier walls are often used to contain contaminants in an aquifer. Rates of solute transport through such barriers are typically many orders of magnitude slower than rates through the aquifer. Nevertheless, the success of remedial actions may be sensitive to these low rates of transport. Two numerical simulation methods for representing low-permeability barriers in a finite-difference groundwater-flow and transport model were tested. In the first method, the hydraulic properties of the barrier were represented directly on grid cells and in the second method, the intercell hydraulic-conductance values were adjusted to approximate the reduction in horizontal flow, allowing use of a coarser and computationally efficient grid. The alternative methods were tested and evaluated on the basis of hypothetical test problems and a field case involving tetrachloroethylene (PCE) contamination at a Superfund site in New Hampshire. For all cases, advective transport across the barrier was negligible, but preexisting numerical approaches to calculate dispersion yielded dispersive fluxes that were greater than expected. A transport model (MODFLOW-GWT) was modified to (1) allow different dispersive and diffusive properties to be assigned to the barrier than the adjacent aquifer and (2) more accurately calculate dispersion from concentration gradients and solute fluxes near barriers. The new approach yields reasonable and accurate concentrations for the test cases. ?? 2006.
Additional publication details
Simulation of solute transport across low-permeability barrier walls