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Numerical Simulation of a Natural Attenuation Experiment with a Petroleum Hydrocarbon NAPL Source

Brauner, J. Steven, Widdowson, Mark A.
Ground water 2001 v.39 no.6 pp. 939-952
BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), aquifers, benzene, biodegradation, decane, ethylbenzene, groundwater, iron, mathematical models, methane production, methanogens, monitoring, naphthalene, nitrate reduction, nonaqueous phase liquids, petroleum, population, solutes, sorption, toluene, xylene, Mississippi
A three-dimensional solute transport model with biological reactions is presented for simulating the natural attenuation study (NATS) at the Columbus Air Force Base in eastern Mississippi. NATS consisted of the release of a petroleum-based nonaqueous phase liquid (NAPL) and subsequent monitoring of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, p-xylene), naphthalene, decane, and bromide in a shallow, unconfined aquifer. Conceptual and mathematical models were developed for NAPL source release, sequential aerobic/anaerobic biodegradation, and sorption during NATS. A multiple species, solute transport code (SEAM3D) was used to simulate fully three-dimensional transport and aerobic, nitrate-reducing, ferrogenic, and methanogenic hydrocarbon biodegradation. Simulation results matched individual BTEX concentration distributions collected five- and nine-months following NAPL release. SEAM3D mass-balance calculations at t = nine months indicated that 49% of the hydrocarbon mass that dissolved into the aqueous phase was consumed by biodegradation, 13% of this mass was sorbed, and the remaining 38% was present in the aqueous phase. Mass calculations at t = nine months further indicated that aerobic biodegradation accounted for the majority of hydrocarbon biodegradation (46% of the biodegraded mass), followed by ferrogenesis (28%), nitrate-reduction (21%), and methanogenesis (5%). Model results were particularly sensitive to the NAPL release rate, the initial ferric iron (Fe[III]) concentration, hydrocarbon utilization rates, initial condition for the anaerobic microbial populations, and dispersivity.