Laboratory evidence of natural remobilization of multicomponent DNAPL pools due to dissolution
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Mixtures of dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) trapped in the subsurface can act as long-term sources of contamination by dissolving into flowing groundwater. In general, the components of higher solubility are removed more quickly, thus altering the composition of the remaining DNAPL, and possibly leading to changes in its physical properties. Through the development of a simple compositional model, Roy et al. [J. Contam. Hydrol. 2002 (59) 163] showed that preferential dissolution of a mixed DNAPL could potentially result in changes in density and interfacial tension that could subsequently lead to remobilization of an initially static DNAPL pool. The laboratory experiments presented in this next paper provide a proof-of-concept for the previously presented theory, demonstrating and quantifying this process of remobilization. In addition, the experiments provide a data set for evaluation of the model presented by Roy et al. [J. Contam. Hydrol. 2002 (59) 163]. In the four experiments, a DNAPL pool comprised of tetrachloroethene and benzene was created as an open pool overlying glass beads within a water-saturated 2-D flow box. Experiments included rectangular and triangular pools. In each of the experiments, remobilization (as breakthrough) was observed more than 2 weeks after formation of the initial pool. During each experiment, the pool height declined as mass was lost by dissolution, while sampling indicated a decrease in the mole fraction of benzene, the more soluble component. Small protuberances formed along the bottom of the pool as its composition changed with time and the displacement pressure was achieved for various pore throats. Eventually one of the protuberances extended further, forming a finger (breakthrough). In general, the pool emptied as the finger proceeded further into the beads. It was also shown theoretically and experimentally that remobilization will occur sooner for pools with a triangular (pointing down), rather than rectangular, shape. The experimental results were simulated using the model developed by Roy et al. [J. Contam. Hydrol. 2002 (59) 163]. The model matched the observations well, suggesting that it accurately represents the primary mechanisms involved with natural remobilization under the conditions of the study.