A solute-transport model that can be used to predict the movement of dissolved chemicals in flowing ground water was applied to a problem of ground-water contamination at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, near Denver, Colo. The model couples a finite-difference solution to the ground-water flow equation with the method-of-characteristics solution to the solute-transport equation.
From 1943 to 1956 liquid industrial wastes containing high chloride concentrations were disposed into unlined ponds at the Arsenal. Wastes seeped out of the unlined disposal ponds and spread for many square miles in the underlying shallow alluvial aquifer. Since 1956 disposal has been into an asphalt-lined reservoir, which contributed to a decline in ground-water contamination by 1972. The simulation model quantitatively integrated the effects of the major factors that controlled changes in chloride concentrations and accurately reproduced the 30-year history of chloride ground-water contamination.
Analysis of the simulation results indicates that the geologic framework of the area markedly restricted the transport and dispersion of dissolved chemicals in the alluvium. Dilution, from irrigation recharge and seepage from unlined canals, was an important factor in reducing the level of chloride concentrations downgradient from the Arsenal. Similarly, recharge of uncontaminated water from the unlined ponds since 1956 has helped to dilute and flush the contaminated ground water.