Stochastic evaluation of subsurface contaminant discharges under physical, chemical, and biological heterogeneities

M. Mohamed, K. Hatfield, A. Hassan, H. Klammler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A finite element 2D Monte Carlo approach is used to evaluate the sensitivity of groundwater contaminant discharges to a Damkohler number ω and spatial variability in aquifer hydraulic conductivity, initial microbial biomass concentrations, and electron acceptor/donor concentrations. Bioattenuation is most sensitive to spatial variations in incipient biomass and critical electron donors/acceptors for ω≥ 1 (i.e., when pore-water residence times are high compared to the time needed for microbial growth or contaminant attenuation). Under these conditions, critical reaction processes can become substrate-limited at multiple locations throughout the aquifer; which in turn increases expected contaminant discharges and their uncertainties at monitored transects. For ω≤0.2, contaminant discharge is not sensitive to incipient biomass variations. Physical heterogeneities expedite plume arrival and delay departure at transects and in turn attenuate peak discharges but do not affect cumulative contaminant discharges. Physical heterogeneities do, however, induce transect mass discharge variances that are bimodal functions of time; the first peak beings consistently higher. A simple stream tube model is invoked to explain the occurrence of peaks in contaminant discharge variance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-812
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • Biodegradation
  • Groundwater
  • Mass discharge
  • Monte Carlo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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