The impact of well-field configuration and permeability heterogeneity on contaminant mass removal and plume persistence

Zhilin Guo, Mark L. Brusseau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of well-field hydraulics and permeability heterogeneity on mass-removal efficiency for systems comprising large groundwater contaminant plumes. A three-dimensional (3D) numerical model was used to simulate the impact of different well-field configurations on pump-and-treat mass removal for heterogeneous domains. The relationship between reduction in contaminant mass discharge (CMDR) and mass removal (MR) was used as the metric to examine remediation efficiency. The impacts of well-field configuration on mass removal behavior are attributed to mass-transfer constraints related to regions of low flow associated with the well field, which can be muted by the influence of permeability heterogeneity. These impacts are reflected in the associated CMDR-MR profiles. Systems whose CDMR-MR profiles are below the 1:1 relationship line are associated with more efficient well-field configurations. The impact of domain heterogeneity on mass-removal effectiveness was investigated in terms of both variance and correlation scale of the random permeability distributions and indexed by the CMDR-MR relationship. Data collected from pump-and-treat operations conducted in a section of the Tucson International Airport Area (TIAA) federal Superfund site were used as a case study. The comparison between simulated and measured site data supports the general validity of the numerical model, and results from the case study are consistent with the conclusions of the theoretical study. These results illustrate that the CMDR-MR relationship can be an effective way to quantify the impacts of different factors on mass-removal efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-115
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - 2017


  • Back diffusion
  • Groundwater remediation
  • Mass flux
  • Plume
  • Pump and treat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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