Identifying functional zones of denitrification in heterogeneous aquifer systems by numerical simulations – a case study

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Eunseon Jang1,2, Thomas Kalbacher1, Wenkui He1,2, Haibing Shao1, Christoph Schueth3 and Olaf Kolditz1,2, (1)Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany, (2)Dresden University of Technology, Dresden, Germany, (3)Darmstadt University of Technology, Institute of Applied Geosciences, Darmstadt, Germany
Nitrate contamination in shallow groundwater is still one of the common problems in many countries. Because of its high solubility and anionic nature, nitrate can easily leach through soil and persist in groundwater for decades. High nitrate concentration has been suggested as a major cause of accelerated eutrophication, methemoglobinemia and gastric cancer. There are several factors influencing the fate of nitrate in groundwater system, which is e.g. distribution of N- sources to soil and groundwater, distribution and amount of reactive substances maintaining denitrification, rate of nitrate degradation and its kinetics, and geological characteristics of the aquifer. Nitrate transport and redox transformation processes are closely linked to complex and spatially distributed physical and chemical interaction, therefore it is difficult to predict and quantify in the field and laboratory experiment. Models can play a key role in elucidation of nitrate reduction pathway in groundwater system and in the design and evaluation of field tests to investigate in situ remediation technologies as well. The goal of the current study is to predict groundwater vulnerability to nitrate, to identify functional zones of denitrification in heterogeneous aquifer systems and to describe the uncertainty of the predictions due to scale effects. For this aim, we developed a kinetic model using multi-component mass transport code OpenGeoSys coupling with IPhreeqc module of the geochemical solver PHREEQC. The developed model included sequential aerobic and nitrate-based respiration, multi-Monod kinetics, multi-species biogeochemical reactions, and geological characteristics of the groundwater aquifer. Moreover water-rock interaction such as secondary mineral precipitation was also included in this model. In this presentation, we focused on the general modelling approach and present the simulation results of nitrate transport simulation in a hypothetical aquifer systems based on data from Hessian Ried, an important groundwater resource for the densely populated Rhine-Main region in Germany.