Reactive dispersive contaminant transport in coastal aquifers: Numerical simulation of a reactive Henry problem

The reactive mixing between seawater and terrestrial water in coastal aquifers influences the water quality of submarine groundwater discharge. While these waters come into contact at the seawater groundwater interface by density driven flow, their chemical components dilute and react through dispersion. A larger interface and wider mixing zone may provide favorable conditions for the natural attenuation of contaminant plumes. It has been claimed that the extent of this mixing is controlled by both, porous media properties and flow conditions. In this study, the interplay between dispersion and reactive processes in coastal aquifers is investigated by means of numerical experiments. Particularly, the impact of dispersion coefficients, the velocity field induced by density driven flow and chemical component reactivities on reactive transport in such aquifers is studied. To do this, a hybrid finite-element finite-volume method and a reactive simulator are coupled, and model accuracy and applicability are assessed. A simple redox reaction is considered to describe the degradation of a contaminant which requires mixing of the contaminated groundwater and the seawater containing the terminal electron acceptor. The resulting degradation is observed for different scenarios considering different magnitudes of dispersion and chemical reactivity. Three reactive transport regimes are found: reaction controlled, reaction-dispersion controlled and dispersion controlled. Computational results suggest that the chemical components' reactivity as well as dispersion coefficients play a significant role on controlling reactive mixing zones and extent of contaminant removal in coastal aquifers. Further, our results confirm that the dilution index is a better alternative to the second central spatial moment of a plume to describe the mixing of reactive solutes in coastal aquifers. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.

Nick HM, Raoof A, Centler F, Thullner M, Regnier P (2013) Reactive dispersive contaminant transport in coastal aquifers: Numerical simulation of a reactive Henry problem. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 145: 90–104. Available:

This work was generously supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), as part of the SOWACOR project, by the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region (Brains Back to Brussels award to P. Regnier), and by the Helmholtz Association via grant VH-NG-338 (GReaTMoDE).

Elsevier BV

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology


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