Emerging Core Concepts for Assessment and Enhancement of Abiotic Natural Attenuation of Groundwater Contaminants

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SERDP 2019 Project of the Year Award for Environmental Restoration

Abiotic processes play an important role in the natural attenuation of groundwater contaminants, and there is a demand for new and improved methods of measurement and/or enhancement of abiotic natural attenuation processes. Most research towards this goal to date had approached the problem from the perspective defined by many years of work on biotic natural attenuation; however, the appeal of abiotic natural attenuation also stems from the success of chemical reduction technologies.

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Dr. Paul Tratnyek from Oregon Health and Science University and his team led a SERDP-funded project that provided a more complete and coherent foundation for abiotic natural attenuation through a combination of data mining, bench-scale experimental testing, and method validation using field conditions and/or field samples. 

Study results have shown that abiotic degradation rates follow the trend of nitro aromatics > chlorinated alkanes > chlorinated ethenes. Dr. Tratnyek and his team have developed an on-going database and summary graphs for contaminant removal kinetic data for representative Department of Defense (DoD) contaminants of concern as well as a conceptual model for assessing natural reductant demand aspects of abiotic natural attenuation. These findings helped to establish quantitative protocols that can be used by DoD site managers to advance the design of enhanced natural attenuation technologies.

For this significant work, Dr. Tratnyek and his team received the 2019 SERDP Project-of-the-Year Award for Environmental Restoration for their project titled Emerging Core Concepts for Assessment and Enhancement of Abiotic Natural Attenuation of Groundwater Contaminants.

Project Team:

  • Paul Tratnyek – Oregon Health & Science University
  • Richard Johnson – Oregon Health & Science University
  • Dimin Fan – Geosyntec Consultants
ER SERDP POY19 award

Photo by Ben Zweig

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