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Trials and tribulations in using models to design groundwater remediation systems

Trials and tribulations in using models to design groundwater remediation systems

Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America 32(7): 407

Strategies for remediation or containment of affected groundwater through pump and treat technology, enhanced biodegradation, natural attenuation, etc. can be greatly aided by effective modeling of the potential remedial alternative. However, different modeling approaches can lead to dramatically different conclusions. Two-dimensional analytical solutions to determine well capture zones can give substantially smaller (or larger) capture zones for a given well pumping scenario than a three-dimensional numerical model, leading to under-design or over-design of a groundwater recovery system. In areas where biogeochemical processes such as sorption and biodegradation are significant, capture zone analysis, even with a sophisticated 3-dimensional flow model, can lead to overly conservative (and expensive) groundwater recovery designs that may end up extracting clean groundwater. In these cases, a contaminant fate and transport model that is calibrated accurately to site conditions can give a much more accurate representation of efficient remediation designs than a simple advective flow model/capture zone analysis. Requiring the model to fit multiple criteria (e.g., heads, concentrations) presents a significant challenge to the modeler, but helps constrain the model and reduces uncertainty in the predictions. Case studies are presented where potential groundwater remediation strategies have been evaluated using different, widely-used modeling approaches, oftentimes with significantly different results. As these results usually lead to designs for groundwater remediation systems, errors in the simulations can cause highly inefficient, or worse, ineffective remediation systems. Perils and pitfalls of various approaches are discussed with illustrative examples.

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Accession: 020520115

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