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Assessment of phenol infiltration resilience in soil media by HYDRUS-1D transport model for a waste discharge site.

Published Article
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1007/s10661-014-3864-9
PMID: 24929358


The movement of contaminants through soil imparts a variety of geo-environmental problem inclusive of lithospheric pollution. Near-surface aquifers are often vulnerable to contamination from surface source if overlying soil possesses poor resilience or contaminant attenuation capacity. The prediction of contaminant transport through soil is urged to protect groundwater from sources of pollutants. Using field simulation through column experiments and mathematical modeling like HYDRUS-1D, assessment of soil resilience and movement of contaminants through the subsurface to reach aquifers can be predicted. An outfall site of effluents of a coke oven plant comprising of alarming concentration of phenol (4-12.2 mg/L) have been considered for studying groundwater condition and quality, in situ soil characterization, and effluent characterization. Hydrogeological feature suggests the presence of near-surface aquifers at the effluent discharge site. Analysis of groundwater of nearby locality reveals the phenol concentration (0.11-0.75 mg/L) exceeded the prescribed limit of WHO specification (0.002 mg/L). The in situ soil, used in column experiment, possess higher saturated hydraulic conductivity (KS  = 5.25 × 10(-4) cm/s). The soil containing 47 % silt, 11 % clay, and 1.54% organic carbon content was found to be a poor absorber of phenol (24 mg/kg). The linear phenol adsorption isotherm model showed the best fit (R(2) = 0.977, RMSE = 1.057) to the test results. Column experiments revealed that the phenol removal percent and the length of the mass transfer zone increased with increasing bed heights. The overall phenol adsorption efficiency was found to be 42-49%. Breakthrough curves (BTCs) predicted by HYDRUS-1D model appears to be close fitting with the BTCs derived from the column experiments. The phenol BTC predicted by the HYDRUS-1D model for 1.2 m depth subsurface soil, i.e., up to the depth of groundwater in the study area, showed that the exhaustion point was reached within 12 days of elapsed time. This clearly demonstrated poor attenuation capacity of the soil to retard migration of phenol to the groundwater from the surface outfall site. Suitable liner, based on these data, may be designed to inhibit subsurface transport of phenol and thereby to protect precious groundwater from contamination.

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