A risk assessment tool for contaminated sites in low-permeability fractured media

Julie Claire Claudia Chambon, Philip John Binning, Peter R. Jørgensen, Poul Løgstrup Bjerg

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A risk assessment tool for contaminated sites in low-permeability fractured media is developed, based on simple transient and steady-state analytical solutions. The discrete fracture (DF) tool, which explicitly accounts for the transport along fractures, covers different source geometries and history (including secondary sources) and can be applied to a wide range of compounds. The tool successfully simulates published data from short duration column and field experiments. The use for risk assessment is illustrated by three typical risk assessment case studies, involving pesticides, chlorinated solvents, benzene and MTBE. The model is compared with field data and with results from a simpler approach based on an Equivalent Porous Media (EPM). Risk assessment conclusions of the DF and EPM approaches are very different due to the early breakthrough, long term tailing, and lower attenuation due to degradation associated with fractured media. While the DF tool simulates the field data, it is difficult to conclude that the DF model is superior to an EPM model because of a lack of long term monitoring data. However, better agreement with existing field data by the DF model using observed physical fracture parameters favors the use of this model over the EPM model for risk assessments.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-4
Pages (from-to)82-98
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Risk assessment
  • Analytical solutions
  • Equivalent porous media
  • Fractured media
  • Discrete fracture

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