Relationship between mass-flux reduction and source-zone mass removal: Analysis of field data

Erica L. DiFilippo, Mark L. Brusseau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The magnitude of contaminant mass-flux reduction associated with a specific amount of contaminant mass removed is a key consideration for evaluating the effectiveness of a source-zone remediation effort. Thus, there is great interest in characterizing, estimating, and predicting relationships between mass-flux reduction and mass removal. Published data collected for several field studies were examined to evaluate relationships between mass-flux reduction and source-zone mass removal. The studies analyzed herein represent a variety of source-zone architectures, immiscible-liquid compositions, and implemented remediation technologies. There are two general approaches to characterizing the mass-flux-reduction/mass-removal relationship, end-point analysis and time-continuous analysis. End-point analysis, based on comparing masses and mass fluxes measured before and after a source-zone remediation effort, was conducted for 21 remediation projects. Mass removals were greater than 60% for all but three of the studies. Mass-flux reductions ranging from slightly less than to slightly greater than one-to-one were observed for the majority of the sites. However, these single-snapshot characterizations are limited in that the antecedent behavior is indeterminate. Time-continuous analysis, based on continuous monitoring of mass removal and mass flux, was performed for two sites, both for which data were obtained under water-flushing conditions. The reductions in mass flux were significantly different for the two sites (90% vs. ∼ 8%) for similar mass removals (∼ 40%). These results illustrate the dependence of the mass-flux-reduction/mass-removal relationship on source-zone architecture and associated mass-transfer processes. Minimal mass-flux reduction was observed for a system wherein mass removal was relatively efficient (ideal mass-transfer and displacement). Conversely, a significant degree of mass-flux reduction was observed for a site wherein mass removal was inefficient (non-ideal mass-transfer and displacement). The mass-flux-reduction/mass-removal relationship for the latter site exhibited a multi-step behavior, which cannot be predicted using some of the available simple estimation functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-35
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 26 2008


  • Mass flux
  • Remediation
  • Source zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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