Unsaturated zone leaching models for assessing risk to groundwater of contaminated sites

Mads Troldborg, Philip John Binning, Signe Nielsen, Peter Kjeldsen, Anders Georg Christensen

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Risk assessments of sites contaminated with organic contaminants are typically conducted using models that ignore gas phase transport in the unsaturated zone. Here a general approach to developing analytical solutions to multiphase transport is presented. The approach is based on a combined gas and aqueous phase contaminant transport equation. The equation has the same general form as the standard advection-diffusion equation for which many analytical solutions have been derived. Four new analytical solutions are developed using this approach: a three-dimensional solution accounting for infiltration, lateral gas diffusion, sorption and degradation; a simple one-dimensional screening model, and two one-dimensional radial gas diffusion models for use in simulating volatile organic contaminant diffusion in unsaturated soils with an impermeable cover. The models show that both degradation and diffusion are important mechanisms for attenuation of contaminant concentrations at the water table. Finally, model results are compared with field data to illustrate the applicability of the solutions in risk assessment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-2
Pages (from-to)28-37
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Risk assessment
  • Contaminant transport
  • Analytical models
  • Unsaturated zone

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