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Identification of key parameters controlling dissolved oxygen migration and attenuation in fractured crystalline rocks

Spiessl, S.M., MacQuarrie, K.T.B., Mayer, K.U.
Journal of contaminant hydrology 2008 v.95 no.3-4 pp. 141-153
aquifers, groundwater, dissolved oxygen, diffusion, hydrogeology, geochemistry, groundwater flow, hydrologic models, mathematical models, simulation models, bedrock
In the crystalline rocks of the Canadian Shield, geochemical conditions are currently reducing at depths of 500-1000 m. However, during future glacial periods, altered hydrologic conditions could potentially result in enhanced recharge of glacial melt water containing a relatively high concentration of dissolved oxygen (O₂). It is therefore of interest to investigate the physical and geochemical processes, including naturally-occurring redox reactions, that may control O₂ ingress. In this study, the reactive transport code MIN3P is used in combination with 2 k factorial analyses to identify the most important parameters controlling oxygen migration and attenuation in fractured crystalline rocks. Scenarios considered are based on simplified conceptual models that include a single vertical fracture, or a fracture zone, contained within a rock matrix that extends from the ground surface to a depth of 500 m. Consistent with field observations, Fe(II)-bearing minerals are present in the fractures (i.e. chlorite) and the rock matrix (biotite and small quantities of pyrite). For the parameter ranges investigated, results indicate that for the single fracture case, the most influential factors controlling dissolved O₂ ingress are flow velocity in the fracture, fracture aperture, and the biotite reaction rate in the rock matrix. The most important parameters for the fracture zone simulations are flow velocity in the individual fractures, pO₂ in the recharge water, biotite reaction rate, and to a lesser degree the abundance and reactivity of chlorite in the fracture zone, and the fracture zone width. These parameters should therefore receive increased consideration during site characterization, and in the formulation of site-specific models intended to predict O₂ behavior in crystalline rocks.