Rethinking pump-and-treat remediation as maximizing contaminated groundwater

Kenneth C. Carroll, Mark L. Brusseau, Geoffrey R. Tick, Mohamad R. Soltanian

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review


For over half a century, the United States has developed water quality regulations (e.g., Safe Drinking Water Act), which has been accompanied by innumerable advances in contaminant transport and fate, site characterization, and remediation. Since the 1980s, “pump-and-treat” techniques have been the most widely used methods for groundwater contamination remediation. By 1982, pump-and-treat was included in 100 % of the U.S. Superfund groundwater remedy decisions, but applications decreased continuously after 1992. This was likely associated with the documented limitations of pump-and-treat for achieving complete remediation with site closure. Several factors can limit the effectiveness of pump-and-treat, a primary one being that contaminant mass residing in NAPL, sorbed, and low-permeability matrices is not removed in an effective or efficient manner. This ineffectiveness leads to extended cleanup times and the generation of enormous volumes of extracted groundwater, in effect creating conditions of maximizing the amount of contaminated groundwater needing treatment. We highlight a means by which to reassess our approach to remediation by recognizing that pump-and-treat, due to its well-documented limitations, often maximizes the generation of contaminated groundwater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number170600
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 25 2024


  • Contaminant
  • Contamination
  • Groundwater
  • Pump-and-treat
  • Remediation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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