U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

Dense Nonaqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs)

Detection and Site Characterization

Calculating Plume Growth Rates

Abstracts of Journal Articles

A Simple Method for Calculating Growth Rates of Petroleum Hydrocarbon Plumes
Bekins, Barbara A., Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, and Gary P. Curtis. Ground Water, Vol 43 No 6, p 817-826, Nov 2005

Data from two research sites contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons show that toluene and xylenes degrade under methanogenic conditions, but the benzene and ethylbenzene plumes grow as aquifer Fe(III) supplies are depleted. It is possible to derive a simple expression for the growth rate of a benzene plume by considering a 1-D reaction front in a constant unidirectional flow field. The method balances the mass flux of benzene with the Fe(III) content of the aquifer, assuming that the biodegradation reaction is instantaneous. The resulting expression shows that the benzene front migration is retarded relative to the groundwater velocity by a factor that depends on the concentrations of hydrocarbon and bioavailable Fe(III). Although it was developed for BTEX constituents, the growth-rate estimation method may have applications to contaminant plumes from other persistent contaminant sources.

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