The evaluation of sorbent containing geotextiles for the remediation of PAH and NAPL contaminated sediment
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As more sites containing contaminated sediments are remedied with sediment caps, so grows the interest among site managers and engineers in the benefits afforded by active capping. While traditional sediment caps can effectively manage strongly solid-associated contaminants in many situations, under certain conditions active caps or amendments may be needed to effectively reduce risk to an acceptable level. This research assessed the predicted and observed breakthrough of dissolved organic contaminants in two newly developed geotextiles; one designed to sorb non-aqueous–phase liquids (NAPLs), the other dissolved-phase contaminants. The performance of the geotextiles was then compared to that of another remediation technology that has been deployed in the field for two years. All active materials were then evaluated based on their sorption capacity and their predicted life under field conditions. The sorbent containing geotextiles designed for active capping applications were tested in columns to simulate field conditions, where upwelling groundwater would be contaminated by impacted sediments, thereby transporting contaminants to the water column. The contaminants of interest in these studies were three polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) of varying hydrophobicity. Breakthrough curves for the materials vii of interest were constructed for the three PAHs and were fit to an advection-dispersion model to predict the mass of contaminants sorbed onto them. This mass was then compared and verified to be similar to values found in literature. The performance of the geotextiles was compared to that of organoclay deployed in Portland, OR, at the McCormick & Baxter Creosoting Company Superfund Site. In 2004, over 22 acres of sediment at the site were remedied with both passive and active caps to mitigate the effects of decades worth of contamination. In certain portions of the site, a 12 inch thick layer of organoclay was employed, while at other portions of the site, conventional sand or a thin reactive core mat with the equivalent of approximately 1 cm of organoclay were employed. The continued effectiveness of these sediment caps was evaluated using a variety of laboratory techniques, including measuring samples’ hexane extractable material, which is a proxy for NAPL contamination, as well as their PAH bulk concentrations. These analyses performed on core samples allowed for the generation of vertical profiles critical to cap evaluation. Despite possessing a significantly greater specific sorption capacity, the geotextiles could not offer the same protection for the extended period of time that the bulk organoclay could. The greater mass of organoclay deployed in bulk at the McCormick & Baxter site allowed a much greater sorption capacity to be placed. It would take over sixty stacked layers of the one of the geotextiles evaluated in these studies to achieve the same capacity for dissolved-phase contaminants as the 1 ft organoclay cap. However, no significant penetration of NAPL into the bulk organoclay has been noted, and thus even the thin layer within a geotextile might have been sufficient at the site, despite its significantly lower overall capacity. The data generated provides information as to the expected capacity of the various sorbent placement approaches and can help guide decisions at other sites.