Use of Drains for Passive Control of Flow Through a Permeable Reactive Barrier
McLean, Neil Ross
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Abstract Permeable reactive barrier technology is a cost effective means of treating near surface groundwater contaminant plumes. However, current reactive barrier technology lacks the capacity to manipulate flow rates and thus hydraulic retention time (HRT) within the barriers in order to maximize the effectiveness and longevity of the media. This study examines the effectiveness of tile drains as passive controls on the flow rate of ground-water through an existing wood particle media permeable reactive barrier treating agricultural nitrate. The use of upgradient and downgradient tile drains allowed HRT to be increased from 4.5 to 10 days in one trial and then to be decreased from 11.1 to 0.8 days in a second trial. Influent groundwater NO3-N concentrations of ~100 mg/L were attenuated to detection limit (0.02 mg/L) only 12% of the 4 m long barrier with HRTs of 4.5 to 10 days. During the second trial, HRT was decreased to 0.8 days and NO3-N penetrated to the downgradient edge of the PRB at 1.8 mg/L. The behaviour of SO4 in the PRB was also affected by flow rate. SO4 entered the PRB at 60 to 71 mg/L during the first trial. Under a HRT of 10 days it was depleted to detection limit after traveling through only 13% of the barrier. When HRT was decreased to 4.5 days, SO4 was able to penetrate the downgradient edge of the PRB at concentrations from 4 to 6 mg/L. With a 0.8 day HRT SO4 reduction was highly restricted as calculations showed 90% of available carbon in the PRB was being used to reduce NO3-N, compared to 7.5% being used for SO4 reduction at that time. In comparison, at the 10 day HRT, 61% of carbon being used for NO3-N reduction, 8.7% for SO4 reduction, 0.7 for dissolved oxygen and 29% was lost through DOC leaching. These calculations suggest that barrier efficiency can be greatly enhanced by manipulation of HRT through use of tile drains.