Rates of trichloroethene (TCE) mass transformed by naturally occurring biodegradation processes in a fractured rock aquifer underlying a former Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) site in West Trenton, New Jersey, were estimated. The methodology included (1) dividing the site into eight elements of equal size and vertically integrating observed concentrations of two daughter products of TCE biodegradation–cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE) and chloride–using water chemistry data from a network of 88 observation wells; (2) summing the molar mass of cis-DCE, the first biodegradation product of TCE, to provide a probable underestimate of reductive biodegradation of TCE, (3) summing the molar mass of chloride, the final product of chlorinated ethene degradation, to provide a probable overestimate of overall biodegradation. Finally, lower and higher estimates of aquifer porosities and groundwater residence times were used to estimate a range of overall transformation rates. The highest TCE transformation rates estimated using this procedure for the combined overburden and bedrock aquifers was 945 kg/yr, and the lowest was 37 kg/yr. However, hydrologic considerations suggest that approximately 100 to 500 kg/yr is the probable range for overall TCE transformation rates in this system. Estimated rates of TCE transformation were much higher in shallow overburden sediments (approximately 100 to 500 kg/yr) than in the deeper bedrock aquifer (approximately 20 to 0.15 kg/yr), which reflects the higher porosity and higher contaminant mass present in the overburden. By way of comparison, pump-and-treat operations at the NAWC site are estimated to have removed between 1,073 and 1,565 kg/yr of TCE between 1996 and 2009.
Additional publication details
Estimated trichloroethene transformation rates due to naturally occurring biodegradation in a fractured-rock aquifer
South Atlantic Water Science Center, New Jersey Water Science Center