Sequential Electron Acceptor Model of Intrinsic Bioremediation at a BTEX Contaminated LUST Site in Laurel Bay, South Carolina

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Virginia Tech


Contaminant transport modeling is being used more often at petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated sites in an attempt to aid engineers in evaluating the feasibility of natural attenuation as a remediation alternative in groundwater systems. In this research, a three-dimensional sequential electron acceptor computer model, SEAM3D, developed by Waddill and Widdowson (1997) was used to simulate contaminant transport at a leaking underground storage tank site in Beaufort, South Carolina. Gasoline containing benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) as well as methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) leaked into the subsurface at the site late in 1990, and monitoring of the water table elevations and contaminant concentrations began in 1993.

Using the field data, the groundwater flow model MODFLOW was used to develop and calibrate a flow model for the Laurel Bay site using GMS (Groundwater Modeling System) v2.1. MODFLOW was coupled with the SEAM3D contaminant transport model, and the available concentration levels were used to calibrate, verify, and validate the site model. The results indicated that SEAM3D simulated complex, interconnected processes including biodegradation, and the transport of multiple hydrocarbon compounds, electron acceptors, and end products over time and space at a specific petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated site.

Once the model was calibrated and verified, the model output was used to study the changes in contaminant mass distribution, contaminant mass loss, and mass loss rates for each terminal electron accepting process (TEAP) over time. It was found that the natural attenuation capacity of the aquifer was insufficient to stabilize the plume and prevent it from reaching the defined point of contact (POC). Contamination was shown to have reached the POC by 1994, just four years into the simulation. Results indicated that despite oxygen limitation within the BTEX plume, aerobic biodegradation was responsible for the greatest amount of mass loss, close to 70 %, relative to the sum of the anaerobic processes after 20 years.



BTEX compounds, groundwater modeling, Contaminant transport modeling, Natural attenuation, Terminal electron accepting processes