Assessing the joint impact of DNAPL source-zone behavior and degradation products on the probabilistic characterization of human health risk

Christopher V. Henri, Daniel Fernàndez-Garcia, Felipe P.J. de Barros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The release of industrial contaminants into the subsurface has led to a rapid degradation of groundwater resources. Contamination caused by Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs) is particularly severe owing to their limited solubility, slow dissolution and in many cases high toxicity. A greater insight into how the DNAPL source zone behavior and the contaminant release towards the aquifer impact human health risk is crucial for an appropriate risk management. Risk analysis is further complicated by the uncertainty in aquifer properties and contaminant conditions. This study focuses on the impact of the DNAPL release mode on the human health risk propagation along the aquifer under uncertain conditions. Contaminant concentrations released from the source zone are described using a screening approach with a set of parameters representing several scenarios of DNAPL architecture. The uncertainty in the hydraulic properties is systematically accounted for by high-resolution Monte Carlo simulations. We simulate the release and the transport of the chlorinated solvent perchloroethylene and its carcinogenic degradation products in randomly heterogeneous porous media. The human health risk posed by the chemical mixture of these contaminants is characterized by the low-order statistics and the probability density function of common risk metrics. We show that the zone of high risk (hot spot) is independent of the DNAPL mass release mode, and that the risk amplitude is mostly controlled by heterogeneities and by the source zone architecture. The risk is lower and less uncertain when the source zone is formed mostly by ganglia than by pools. We also illustrate how the source zone efficiency (intensity of the water flux crossing the source zone) affects the risk posed by an exposure to the chemical mixture. Results display that high source zone efficiencies are counter-intuitively beneficial, decreasing the risk because of a reduction in the time available for the production of the highly toxic subspecies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-138
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Volume88
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Aquifer heterogeneity
  • Degradation-related chemical mixture
  • Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids
  • Mass release mode
  • Probabilistic human health risk
  • Source-zone

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources

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