Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Energy, Environment Protection, Nuclear Power Engineering
Matrix diffusion can attenuate the rate of plume migration in fractured bedrock relative to the rate of ground water flow for both conservative and nonconservative solutes of interest. In a system of parallel, equally spaced constant aperture fractures subject to steady-state ground water flow and an infinite source width, the degree of plume attenuation increases with time and travel distance, eventually reaching an asymptotic level. The asymptotic degree of plume attenuation in the absence of degradation can be predicted by a plume attenuation factor, β, which is readily estimated as R′ (φm/φf), where R′ is the retardation factor in the matrix, φm is the matrix porosity, and φf, is the fracture porosity. This dual-porosity relationship can also be thought of as the ratio of primary to secondary porosity. β represents the rate of ground water flow in fractures relative to the rate of plume advance. For the conditions examined in this study, β increases with greater matrix porosity, greater matrix fraction organic carbon, larger fracture spacing, and smaller fracture aperture. These concepts are illustrated using a case study where dense nonaqueous phase liquid in fractured sandstone produced a dissolved-phase trichloroethylene (TCE) plume ∼300 m in length. Transport parameters such as matrix porosity, fracture porosity, hydraulic gradient, and the matrix retardation factor were characterized at the site through field investigations. In the fractured sandstone bedrock examined in this study, the asymptotic plume attenuation factors (β values) for conservative and nonconservative solutes (i.e., chloride and TCE) were predicted to be ∼800 and 12,210, respectively. Quantitative analyses demonstrate that a porous media (single-porosity) solute transport model is not appropriate for simulating contaminant transport in fractured sandstone where matrix diffusion occurs. Rather, simulations need to be conducted with either a discrete fracture model that explicitly incorporates matrix diffusion, or a dual-continuum model that accounts for mass transfer between mobile and immobile zones. Simulations also demonstrate that back diffusion from the matrix to fractures will likely be the time-limiting factor in reaching ground water cleanup goals in some fractured bedrock environments.
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