Trichloroethene (TCE) is a chlorinated volatile organic compound (CVOC) that can be found in industrial and household products. It is typically used as a solvent or degreaser. TCE can have detrimental health impacts and is known to be carcinogenic to humans. Federal and state regulatory drivers determine the need to assess and remediate soil and groundwater contaminated with CVOCs. There are many different methods for remediation; however, bioremediation has the ability to breakdown TCE all the way to harmless gasses (ethene and ethane). Bioremediation requires dechlorinating microbes (indigenous or augmented), electron donor (food source), and an electron acceptor (CVOCs). Electron donors are typically injected into the target area and are distributed naturally throughout the subsurface. A partitioning electron donor (PED) has the ability to partition from the dissolved phase into low permeability zones and/or dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) (i.e. source zones), and then be slowly released and readily metabolized at the DNAPL:water interface. This thesis summarizes the first field scale PED implementation with the main research objective of evaluating whether utilizing a PED for bioremediation of a TCE source zone is achievable. Based on laboratory studies, n-butyl acetate (nBA) was selected as the PED for application in a TCE source area, selected at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 34, identified as Hot Spot 1. Hot Spot 1 has a zone of high concentration TCE in a low permeability clay layer at a depth of approximately 40 feet below land surface (ft BLS). Implementation included the recirculation of groundwater above and below the clay layer without PED injection for comparative analysis (baseline flux), then with PED injection in, above, and below the clay layer (system operation phase). The groundwater was recirculated using a solar powered recirculation system, which consisted of a pair of extraction wells in the center of the treatment area, screened above and below the low permeability layer, and a set of five peripheral injection well pairs, similarly screened, used to create an inward hydraulic gradient and promote horizontal flow across the top and base of the clay layer. Groundwater concentrations in the treatment area were monitored using three monitoring well clusters (each with six depth intervals ranging from 23 to 61 ft BLS) and existing monitoring wells in the treatment area. The groundwater recirculation system was operated, without addition of PED, for approximately four weeks to establish the baseline flux condition. PED was then introduced to the subsurface by injecting 34,000 gallons of a solution containing nBA (3,000 mg/L) and conservative tracers (bromide and/or iodide) using direct push technology (DPT) at 20 locations from approximately 23 to 62 ft BLS. Confirmation sampling (DPT groundwater and monitoring well sampling) was conducted to assess the PED distribution after injection activities. The recirculation system remained off after PED injection for approximately four weeks to allow the PED to partition into the DNAPL and to facilitate the acclimation and establishment of biomass within the treatment area. The recirculation system was then restarted and operated for approximately one year. Groundwater sampling was performed regularly to assess mass flux and microbial reductive dechlorination. PED amendment was successfully injected above, in, and below the low permeability layer, as evidenced by positive detections of nBA from soil and groundwater sampling within the treatment area immediately following the injection event. The implementation was also successful in reducing contaminant mass from both soil and groundwater. CVOC mass removed during the baseline flux phase (pre-PED injection; 14 March 2011 to 18 April 2011) was calculated based on groundwater sampling data and totaled 14 pounds (lbs). All of the mass removed during the baseline flux phase was from the high permeability layer, indicating that mass removed was dissolved phase mass above and below the clay layer. Mass removal was likely a result of extraction and dilution from operation of the recirculation system. The mass removal rate during the baseline flux phase was approximately 0.40 pounds per day (lbs/day). CVOC mass removed during the system operation phase (post-PED injection; 9 August 2011 to 11 September 2012) was calculated based on groundwater and soil sampling data and totaled 110 lbs. Of the 110 lbs removed, 78 lbs of CVOC mass was removed from the high permeability layer and 32 lbs was removed from the low permeability layer, indicating that not only dissolved phase mass in the high permeability layer was removed, but source zone material sorbed into the low permeability layer was removed as well. Mass removed from the low permeability layer was likely a result degredation (ie. reductive dechlorination) at and around the DNAPL:water interface. The mass removal rate during the system operation phase was approximately 0.28 lbs/day. The higher rate of removal during the baseline flux phase is likely due to the initial removal of a significant amount of dissolved phase CVOCs and not the mass sorbed into the low permeability layer. In general, TCE and cis-1,2-dichloroethene (cDCE) concentrations decreased during the baseline flux phase with no increase in vinyl chloride (VC) concentration, indicating removal via extraction and dilution and not reductive dechlorination. Following the PED injection, TCE and cDCE concentrations generally decreased with increases observed in VC concentrations, indicative of reductive dechlorination. Ethene concentration was monitored to assess complete dechlorination from TCE to ethene. Average ethene concentration detected in samples collected from treatment zone monitoring wells increased from 52.8 micrograms per liter (?g/L) (pre-injection; April 2011) to 408 ?g/L (September 2012), indicating complete dechlorination of CVOCs was occurring. In addition, dechlorinating microbial biomass increased significantly, as evidenced by increases in average Dhc (dechlorinating microbial culture) and vcrA (specific gene of culture responsible for breaking down VC through to ethene) concentrations detected in samples collected from treatment zone monitoring wells; Dhc increased from 8.5x106 gene copies/L (pre-injection; April 2011) to 5.0x107 gene copies/L (September 2012) and vcrA increased from 5.0x103 gene copies/L (April 2011) to 6.8x107 gene copies/L (September 2012). TOC concentration was shown to generally increase following the injection activities, then decrease through the system operation period, indicating the electron donor was successfully injected into the subsurface, and was being utilized by the indigenous dechlorinating microbial population. Remaining TOC at the site was minimal, with an average TOC concentration of 21 mg/L (September 2012) detected in samples collected from treatment zone monitoring wells, decreasing from 250 mg/L (August 2011) just following injection. If reductive dechlorination were to continue to occur, more electron donor would be needed. The reduction of CVOC concentrations at the site are likely due to reductive dechlorination as a result of the PED amendment injection, as evidenced by: (i) the production of daughter products relative to the degradation of TCE; (ii) the production of ethene; (iii) the production of dechlorinating microbial mass; and (iv) the reduction of electron donor. Although effective, nBA was utilized and depleted quicker than an industry electron donor would be expected to last, depleting within 12 months, as opposed to two to three years. Based on this alone, it appears that nBA would not be a good candidate for full scale implementation at this or other sites; however, to provide a true comparative analysis, side-by-side test plots would be recommended at the site, one utilizing nBA and one utilizing a standard substrate. This would ensure both electron donor options are being subjected to the same geophysical and geochemical settings and the same or similar contaminant concentrations.
Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (M.S.Env.E.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Bartlett, Joseph, "Bioremediation of a Trichloroethene DNAPL Source Zone Utilizing a Partitioning Electron Donor - Field Implementation" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5255.