Modeling of an MTBE plume at Pascoag, Rhode Island

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A numerical groundwater flow and mass transport model was developed to predict the extent of impact from methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) release on a down-gradient drinking water well field. An MTBE incident in Pascoag, Rhode Island, was used as a case study and the plume's past and future development was simulated using scenario analysis. The numerical code used was GeoSys/Rockflow, which permits a coupled flow and transport simulation as one object, thus alleviating the need for simulating the MTBE fate with separate flow and transport codes. The numerical model was built on available hydrogeological and chemical data as well as on GIS information of the site. By comparing the simulated results with observed field data, it was found that the model could provide reliable results even when the simulated aquifer was simplified to a two-dimensional flow and transport domain. Finally, the calibrated model was used for exploring a location that may be suitable for a new well field. Despite the model limitations associated with uncertainties of data and simplifying assumptions, numerical modeling of this MTBE contaminated site proved a useful tool and provided guidance for future municipal well field operation strategies and aquifer remediation alternatives. © 2008 Springer-Verlag.

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Environmental Geology