Selecting remediation goals by assessing the natural attenuation capacity of groundwater systems

Bioremediation Journal
By:  and 



Remediation goals for the source areas of a chlorinated ethene‐contaminated groundwater plume were identified by assessing the natural attenuation capacity of the aquifer system. The redox chemistry of the site indicates that sulfate‐reducing (H2 ∼ 2 nanomoles [nM]) per liter conditions near the contaminant source grade to Fe(III)‐reducing conditions (H2 ∼ 0.5 nM) downgradient of the source. Sulfate‐reducing conditions facilitate the initial reduction of perchloroethene (PCE) to trichloroethene (TCE), cis‐dichloroethene (cis‐DCE), and vinyl chloride (VC). Subsequently, the Fe(III)‐reducing conditions drive the oxidation of cis‐DCE and VC to carbon dioxide and chloride. This sequence gives the aquifer a substantial capacity for biodegrading chlorinated ethenes. Natural attenuation capacity (the slope of the steady‐state contaminant concentration profile along a groundwater flowpath) is a function of biodegradation rates, aquifer dispersive characteristics, and groundwater flow velocity. The natural attenuation capacity at the Kings Bay, Georgia site was assessed by estimating groundwater flowrates (∼0.23 ± 0.12 m/d) and aquifer dispersivity (∼1 m) from hydrologic and scale considerations. Apparent biodegradation rate constants (PCE and TCE ∼ 0.01 d−1; cis‐DCE and VC ∼ 0.025 d−1) were estimated from observed contaminant concentration changes along aquifer flowpaths. A boundary‐value problem approach was used to estimate levels to which contaminant concentrations in the source areas must be lowered (by engineered removal), or groundwater flow velocities lowered (by pumping) for the natural attenuation capacity to achieve maximum concentration limits (MCLs) prior to reaching a predetermined regulatory point of compliance.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Selecting remediation goals by assessing the natural attenuation capacity of groundwater systems
Series title Bioremediation Journal
DOI 10.1080/10889869809380381
Volume 2
Issue 3-4
Year Published 1998
Language English
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 12 p.
First page 227
Last page 238
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