Environmental Restoration (ER) Program Area

The overall objective of this Statement of Need (SON) was to improve our understanding and estimation of the impact of several natural processes on the fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater. Ultimately the goal of this SON is to quantify the long-term impacts of natural processes on contaminants in groundwater and to estimate the resulting contaminant attenuation rate. Specific objectives of interest include:

  • Develop and validate field-scale methods for estimating important parameters such as back diffusion, sorption, and degradation (both biotic and abiotic) of contaminants. The degradation and diffusion of contaminants that occur in and around the interfaces of low and high permeability layers is likely to be especially important.
  • Develop a greater understanding of the effect of physical, chemical, and biological processes and their associated rates on contaminant behavior in lower mobility zones to support improved predictive modeling of plume behavior.
  • Develop tools to estimate the natural contaminant assimilative capacity of an aquifer.
  • Develop mathematical and simulation estimation methodologies for these important natural processes that can be incorporated into commonly-used models to predict contaminant behavior in groundwater.
  • Develop cost-effective diagnostic methods to determine whether natural attenuation processes are still occurring.
  • Develop networks of relatively inexpensive sensors for key contaminant attenuation rate indicators that are capable of measuring parameters associated with each of the contaminant destruction processes.

The projects listed below were selected to address the objectives of this SON. Additional information on individual projects can be found by clicking the project title.

    • Lead Investigator: Dr. Robert Borden, Solutions-IES

    • Lead Investigator: Dr, Charles Werth, University of Texas at Austin

    • Lead Investigator: Dr. Paul Hatzinger, CB&I Federal Services

    • Lead Investigator: Dr. Michelle Scherer, University of Iowa

    • Lead Investigator: Dr. Richelle Allen-King, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York

    • Lead Investigator: Dr. Julie Konzuk, Geosyntec Consultants, Inc.

    • Lead Investigator: Mr. Peter Bennett, Haley & Aldrich, Inc.

Research should lead to improved site assessments and monitoring of long-term attenuation processes, and therefore more effective long-term management of contaminated groundwater sites. This information will be needed to: (1) obtain regulatory and other stakeholder concurrence that natural or enhanced attenuation is a viable, protective long-term remedial option; (2) support cost-benefit analyses of different methods for enhancing attenuation at a given site, if needed; and (3) track the progress of natural or enhanced attenuation. The resulting tools and understanding should improve the ability to assess the risks associated with residual contamination and manage those risks cost-effectively.