Coupling Aggressive Mass Removal with Microbial Reductive Dechlorination for Remediation of DNAPL Source Zones: A Review and Assessment
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences -- Environmental Health Perspectives
DOI 10.1289/ehp.6932
  1. aquifer
  2. bioremediation
  3. DNAPL
  4. innovative technologies
  5. microbial degradation
  6. physical–chemical
  7. post-treatment
  8. reductive dechlorination
  9. remediation
  10. source zone

The infiltration of dense non-aqueous-phase liquids (DNAPLs) into the saturated subsurface typically produces a highly contaminated zone that serves as a long-term source of dissolved-phase groundwater contamination. Applications of aggressive physical–chemical technologies to such source zones may remove > 90% of the contaminant mass under favorable conditions. The remaining contaminant mass, however, can create a rebounding of aqueous-phase concentrations within the treated zone. Stimulation of microbial reductive dechlorination within the source zone after aggressive mass removal has recently been proposed as a promising staged-treatment remediation technology for transforming the remaining contaminant mass. This article reviews available laboratory and field evidence that supports the development of a treatment strategy that combines aggressive source-zone removal technologies with subsequent promotion of sustained microbial reductive dechlorination. Physical–chemical source-zone treatment technologies compatible with posttreatment stimulation of microbial activity are identified, and studies examining the requirements and controls (i.e., limits) of reductive dechlorination of chlorinated ethenes are investigated. Illustrative calculations are presented to explore the potential effects of source-zone management alternatives. Results suggest that, for the favorable conditions assumed in these calculations (i.e., statistical homogeneity of aquifer properties, known source-zone DNAPL distribution, and successful bioenhancement in the source zone), source longevity may be reduced by as much as an order of magnitude when physical–chemical source-zone treatment is coupled with reductive dechlorination.