Mathematical Modeling of Reductive Transformation Kinetics of Branched Degradation Pathways of Groundwater Contaminants


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Virginia Tech


Groundwater contaminants such as chlorinated ethenes, chlorinated ethanes and nitroaromatic explosive compounds (e.g. 2,4,6-Trinitrotoluene (TNT)) degrade in the subsurface primarily by microbially catalyzed reductive transformation reactions. From a regulatory point of view, the capability to simulate the kinetics of these reductive transformation reactions coupled with other attenuation processes in the subsurface (e.g., sorption, advection, and dispersion) is required for site-specific solute transport models. A kinetic model based on Michaelis-Menten type equations (Widdowson 2004) has been successfully validated for the linear reductive dechlorination pathway of chlorinated ethenes, and implemented in solute transport codes such as SEAM3D (Waddill and Widdowson 2000). However, TNT degrades through more complex branched pathways, and kinetic models are lacking in the current literature.

This research study was undertaken with the objective of extending the kinetic model developed for the linear reductive pathway of chlorinated ethenes to branched pathways. The proposed extended kinetic model was validated with experimental concentration-time data of TNT and its metabolites from two prior published laboratory studies (Daun et al. 2000; Hwang et al. 2000), both in the presence and absence of sorption. The model-predicted concentrations with time of TNT and its degradation intermediates and end-products correlated well with the experimental data. The model is further compatible with and can be easily incorporated into solute transport codes (e.g., SEAM3D), and used to evaluate the fate and transport of TNT and other similar contaminants in the subsurface.



Sorption, TNT, Biodegradation, Branched Pathways, Reductive Transformation