Effects of pore-scale velocity and pore-scale physical processes on contaminant biodegradation during transport in groundwater: modeling and experiments
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Contamination of surface and ground water has emerged as one of the most important environmental issues in developed and developing countries. Bioremediation of groundwater takes advantage of bacteria present in the environment to transform toxic compounds to non-toxic metabolites. This biotechnology holds the potential for fast, inexpensive, and effective water decontamination. However, it is still poorly understood and usually not fully controlled due to the lack of information describing the natural phenomena involved. Therefore, a better understanding of the phenomena involved during bioremediation of groundwater could help in the design and implementation of more efficient technologies. The main objective of the present research is to assess how pore-scale physical factors, such as pore-scale velocity, affect the degradation potential of contaminants during transport in groundwater. The target chemicals studied were chlorinated ethenes because they are commonly found in contaminated groundwater sites. To achieve the research objective, the following were employed: a mathematical model that links pore scale processes to the macro-scale representation of contaminant transport; development of numerical tools to solve the mathematical model; and experimental elucidation of the influence of pore-scale flow velocity on the biodegradation of contaminants using column experiments. Results from the mathematical model and experiments were used to elucidate the inter-relationship between physical and biological phenomena at the micro scale. The influence of flow velocity through the porous media (a physical factor) on the biological structure (microbial community in the porous media) was assessed. The results of this investigation contribute to the bioremediation of contaminated groundwater understanding with new insights on the importance of physical transport factors on the biodegradation potential. For example, flow velocity is shown to have an important effect on the degradation potential of chlorinated ethenes. Additionally, the mathematical model and numerical tools have potential application to many other reactive transport problems, including: adsorption onto activated carbon, reaction in packed beds of catalyst, chemical transport in streambeds, and separation in chromatographic columns.
Mendoza Sanchez, Itza (2007). Effects of pore-scale velocity and pore-scale physical processes on contaminant biodegradation during transport in groundwater: modeling and experiments. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from