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Evidence of rock matrix back-diffusion and abiotic dechlorination using a field testing approach

Schaefer, Charles E., Lippincott, David R., Klammler, Harald, Hatfield, Kirk
Journal of contaminant hydrology 2018 v.209 pp. 33-41
bedrock, carbon, dechlorination, diffusivity, models, screening
An in situ field demonstration was performed in fractured rock impacted with trichloroethene (TCE) and cis-1,2-dichloroethene (DCE) to assess the impacts of contaminant rebound after removing dissolved contaminants within hydraulically conductive fractures. Using a bedrock well pair spaced 2.4m apart, TCE and DCE were first flushed with water to create a decrease in dissolved contaminant concentrations. While hydraulically isolating the well pair from upgradient contaminant impacts, contaminant rebound then was observed between the well pair over 151days. The magnitude, but not trend, of TCE rebound was reasonably described by a matrix back-diffusion screening model that employed an effective diffusion coefficient and first-order abiotic TCE dechlorination rate constant that was based on bench-scale testing. Furthermore, a shift in the TCE:DCE ratio and carbon isotopic enrichment was observed during the rebound, suggesting that both biotic and abiotic dechlorination were occurring within the rock matrix. The isotopic data and back-diffusion model together served as a convincing argument that matrix back-diffusion was the mechanism responsible for the observed contaminant rebound. Results of this field demonstration highlight the importance and applicability of rock matrix parameters determined at the bench-scale, and suggest that carbon isotopic enrichment can be used as a line of evidence for abiotic dechlorination within rock matrices.