Contaminant Fate and Reactive Transport in Groundwater

Massimo Rolle, Ulrich Maier, Peter Grathwohl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Understanding the complex, interacting processes that determine the fate and transport of contaminants in groundwater is a major challenge for evaluating and predicting risks to clean water, human and ecological receptors and for designing effective remediation plans. Different physical and biogeochemical processes including advection, hydrodynamic dispersion, dissolution, sorption and biodegradation affect the migration of contaminants in saturated porous media like a groundwater system. In this chapter an overview of these processes is presented together with the basic theory on contaminant transport modeling, which represents an essential tool for a quantitative description of contaminant migration in the subsurface. Numerical simulations of typical contamination scenarios are presented, with the main goal of identifying the influence of different parameters on contaminant fate and transport such as transverse dispersivity, thickness and strength of the contamination source, recharge, biodegradation rates and mixing enhancement through flow focusing in high permeability zones. These numerical simulations are complemented by two examples, i.e. the reactive transport of toluene from a LNAPL source and a field study, where ammonium is continuously released from a leaking landfill to the underlying aquifer. The principal processes at the landfill site have been quantitatively integrated into the framework of a two-dimensional reactive transport model.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDealing with Contaminated Sites
EditorsF. A. Swartjes
Number of pages35
Publication date2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • advection
  • contaminant biodegradation
  • contaminant migration
  • contaminant reactive transport
  • contamination scenario
  • contamination source transverse dispersivity
  • groundwater contaminant fate
  • high permeability zone
  • porous media like groundwater system
  • ammonium 14798-03-9 pollutant, water pollutant
  • toluene 108-88-3 pollutant, water pollutant
  • 04500, Mathematical biology and statistical methods
  • 10060, Biochemistry studies - General
  • 10515, Biophysics - Biocybernetics
  • 37015, Public health - Air, water and soil pollution
  • Computational Biology
  • contaminant transport modeling mathematical and computer techniques
  • numerical simulation mathematical and computer techniques
  • two-dimensional reactive transport model mathematical and computer techniques
  • Models and Simulations
  • Pollution Assessment Control and Management


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