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In situ mixing of organic matter decreases hydraulic conductivity of denitrification walls in sand aquifers

In a previous study, a denitrification wall was constructed in a sand aquifer using sawdust as the carbon substrate. Ground water bypassed around this sawdust wall due to reduced hydraulic conductivity. We investigated potential reasons for this by testing two new walls and conducting laboratory studies. The first wall was constructed by mixing aquifer material in situ without substrate addition to investigate the effects of the construction technique (mixed wall). A second, biochip wall, was constructed using coarse wood chips to determine the effect of size of the particles in the amendment on hydraulic conductivity. The aquifer hydraulic conductivity was 35.4 m/d, while in the mixed wall it was 2.8 m/d and in the biochip wall 3.4 m/d. This indicated that the mixing of the aquifer sands below the water table allowed the particles to re-sort themselves into a matrix with a significantly lower hydraulic conductivity than the process that originally formed the aquifer. The addition of a coarser substrate in the biochip wall significantly increased total porosity and decreased bulk density, but hydraulic conductivity remained low compared to the aquifer. Laboratory cores of aquifer sand mixed under dry and wet conditions mimicked the reduction in hydraulic conductivity observed in the field within the mixed wall. The addition of sawdust to the laboratory cores resulted in a significantly higher hydraulic conductivity when mixed dry compared to cores mixed wet. This reduction in the hydraulic conductivity of the sand/sawdust cores mixed under saturated conditions repeated what occurred in the field in the original sawdust wall. This indicated that laboratory investigations can be a useful tool to highlight potential reductions in field hydraulic conductivities that may occur when differing materials are mixed under field conditions.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Barkle, G. F., Schipper, L. A., Burgess, C. P., & Painter, B. D. M. (2008). In situ mixing of organic matter decreases hydraulic conductivity of denitrification walls in sand aquifers. Ground Water Monitoring & Remediation, 28(1), 57-64.
© 2008 the author(s).