Organic chemical degradation by remote study of the redox conditions
Friday, 19 December 2014
Monitoring the natural (and enhanced) degradation of organic contaminants is essential for managing groundwater quality in many parts of the world. Contaminated sites often have limited access, hence non-intrusive methods for studying redox processes, which drive the degradation of organic compounds, are required. One example is the degradation of de-icing chemicals (glycols and organic salts) released to the soil near airport runways during winter. This issue has been broadly studied at Oslo airport, Gardermoen, Norway using intrusive and non-intrusive methods. Here, we report on laboratory experiments that aim to study the potential of using a self-potential, DCresistivity, and time-domain induced polarization for geochemical characterization of the degradation of Propylene Glycol (PG). PG is completely miscible in water, does not adsorb to soil particles and does not contribute to the electrical conductivity of the soil water. When the contaminant is in the unsaturated zone near the water table, the oxygen is quickly consumed and the gas exchange with the surface is insufficient to ensure aerobic degradation, which is faster than anaerobic degradation. Since biodegradation of PG is highly oxygen demanding, anaerobic pockets can exist causing iron and manganese reduction. It is hypothesised that nitrate would boost the degradation rate under such conditions. In our experiment, we study PG degradation in a sand tank. We provide the system with an electron highway to bridge zones with different redox potential. This geo-battery system is characterized by self-potential, resistivity and induced polarization anomalies. An example of preliminary results with self-potential at two different times of the experiment can be seen in the illustration. These will be supplemented with more direct information on the redox chemistry: in-situ water sampling, pH, redox potential and electrical conductivity measurements. In parallel, a series of batch experiments have been performed to study anoxic microbial degradation using gas and resistivity measurements.