Journal article

Biological reduction of chlorinated solvents: Batch-scale geochemical modeling

Simulation of biodegradation of chlorinated solvents in dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) source zones requires a model that accounts for the complexity of processes involved and that is consistent with available laboratory studies. This paper describes such a comprehensive modeling framework that includes microbially mediated degradation processes, microbial population growth and decay, geochemical reactions, as well as interphase mass transfer processes such as DNAPL dissolution, gas formation and mineral precipitation/dissolution. All these processes can be in equilibrium or kinetically controlled. A batch modeling example was presented where the degradation of trichloroethene (TCE) and its byproducts and concomitant reactions (e.g., electron donor fermentation, sulfate reduction, pH buffering by calcite dissolution) were simulated. Local and global sensitivity analysis techniques were applied to delineate the dominant model parameters and processes. Sensitivity analysis indicated that accurate values for parameters related to dichloroethene (DCE) and vinyl chloride (VC) degradation (i.e., DCE and VC maximum utilization rates, yield due to DCE utilization, decay rate for DCE/VC dechlorinators) are important for prediction of the overall dechlorination time. These parameters influence the maximum growth rate of the DCE and VC dechlorinating microorganisms and, thus, the time required for a small initial population to reach a sufficient concentration to significantly affect the overall rate of dechlorination. Self-inhibition of chlorinated ethenes at high concentrations and natural buffering provided by the sediment were also shown to significantly influence the dechlorination time. Furthermore, the analysis indicated that the rates of the competing, nonchlorinated electron-accepting processes relative to the dechlorination kinetics also affect the overall dechlorination time. Results demonstrated that the model developed is a flexible research tool that is able to provide valuable insight into the fundamental processes and their complex interactions during bioremediation of chlorinated ethenes in DNAPL source zones.

Related material