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. 2011 Nov 1;126(3-4):271-90.
doi: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2011.09.002. Epub 2011 Sep 17.

Variably Saturated Flow and Multicomponent Biogeochemical Reactive Transport Modeling of a Uranium Bioremediation Field Experiment

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Variably Saturated Flow and Multicomponent Biogeochemical Reactive Transport Modeling of a Uranium Bioremediation Field Experiment

Steven B Yabusaki et al. J Contam Hydrol. .

Abstract

Three-dimensional, coupled variably saturated flow and biogeochemical reactive transport modeling of a 2008 in situ uranium bioremediation field experiment is used to better understand the interplay of transport and biogeochemical reactions controlling uranium behavior under pulsed acetate amendment, seasonal water table variation, spatially variable physical (hydraulic conductivity, porosity) and geochemical (reactive surface area) material properties. While the simulation of the 2008 Big Rusty acetate biostimulation field experiment in Rifle, Colorado was generally consistent with behaviors identified in previous field experiments at the Rifle IFRC site, the additional process and property detail provided several new insights. A principal conclusion from this work is that uranium bioreduction is most effective when acetate, in excess of the sulfate-reducing bacteria demand, is available to the metal-reducing bacteria. The inclusion of an initially small population of slow growing sulfate-reducing bacteria identified in proteomic analyses led to an additional source of Fe(II) from the dissolution of Fe(III) minerals promoted by biogenic sulfide. The falling water table during the experiment significantly reduced the saturated thickness of the aquifer and resulted in reactants and products, as well as unmitigated uranium, in the newly unsaturated vadose zone. High permeability sandy gravel structures resulted in locally high flow rates in the vicinity of injection wells that increased acetate dilution. In downgradient locations, these structures created preferential flow paths for acetate delivery that enhanced local zones of TEAP reactivity and subsidiary reactions. Conversely, smaller transport rates associated with the lower permeability lithofacies (e.g., fine) and vadose zone were shown to limit acetate access and reaction. Once accessed by acetate, however, these same zones limited subsequent acetate dilution and provided longer residence times that resulted in higher concentrations of TEAP reaction products when terminal electron donors and acceptors were not limiting. Finally, facies-based porosity and reactive surface area variations were shown to affect aqueous uranium concentration distributions with localized effects of the fine lithofacies having the largest impact on U(VI) surface complexation. The ability to model the comprehensive biogeochemical reaction network, and spatially and temporally variable processes, properties, and conditions controlling uranium behavior during engineered bioremediation in the naturally complex Rifle IFRC subsurface system required a subsurface simulator that could use the large memory and computational performance of a massively parallel computer. In this case, the eSTOMP simulator, operating on 128 processor cores for 12h, was used to simulate the 110-day field experiment and 50 days of post-biostimulation behavior.

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