The Effects of In-Situ Stimulation of Natural Biofilm on Groundwater Flow and Back Diffusion in a Fractured Rock Aquifer
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Remediation of DNAPL contaminated sites in fractured rock has proven to be very difficult. No current technology can be used to remediate such sites in a timely and economic manner due to the inherent heterogeneity of fractured rock and back diffusion of contaminants stored in the rock matrix. This study was conducted in order to evaluate the viability of biostimulation of native biofilm as a means to control flow and back diffusion at fractured rock sites. A field trial was conducted at an uncontaminated site in southern Ontario. The site is underlain by dolomites of the Lockport formation. Three major fracture zones have been identified in the study area. Two closely spaced (5.04 m) boreholes were used to isolate a fracture zone at a depth of 17 m with straddle packers. These boreholes were used to create an injection-withdrawal system with recirculation, which was used for tracer injection in order to load the rock matrix with a conservative dye tracer and to inject nutrients for 21 days in order to stimulate the growth of biofilm in the fracture. Evaluation of the ability of the biofilm to control flow through the fracture was conducted through pulse interference tests. Pulse interference tests were conducted before and after the injection of nutrients. The results from the pulse interference tests showed a maximum 65% reduction in transmissivity, which is equivalent to a 28% reduction in fracture aperture shortly after the cessation of biostimulation. In order to investigate the effect of the biofilm stimulation on matrix diffusion the rock matrix was loaded with Lissamine, a conservative fluorescent dye tracer prior to biostimulation and its concentration was monitored at injection and withdrawal wells. The effect that biostimulation had on matrix diffusion was determined by comparing field concentration measurements with a model that simulates a system unaffected by biofilm stimulation. The biostimulation lowered the concentration of tracer attributable to back diffusion at the withdrawal well by about 20% for approximately 30 days following the cessation of biostimulation. It is also thought that large amounts of tracer might have been trapped in the biofilm as it formed and was then released back into the fracture as the biofilm deteriorated.