Testing an analytical model for predicting subsurface LNAPL distributions from current and historic fluid levels in Monitoring Wells: A preliminary test considering hysteresis

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Water (Switzerland), 2019, 11 (11)
Issue Date:
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© 2019 by the authors. Knowledge of subsurface light nonaqueous phase liquid (LNAPL) saturation is important for developing a conceptual model and a plan for addressing LNAPL contaminated sites. Investigators commonly predict LNAPL mobility and potential recoverability using information such as LNAPL physical properties, subsurface characteristics, and LNAPL saturations. Several models exist that estimate the LNAPL specific volume and transmissivity from fluid levels in monitoring wells. Commonly, investigators use main drainage capillary pressure-saturation relations because they are more frequently measured and available in the literature. However, main drainage capillary pressure-saturation relations may not reflect field conditions due to capillary pressure-saturation hysteresis. In this paper, we conduct a preliminary test of a recent analytical model that predicts subsurface LNAPL saturations, specific volume, and transmissivity against data measured at a LNAPL contaminated site. We call our test preliminary because we compare only measured and predicted vertical LNAPL saturations at a single site. Our results show there is better agreement between measured and predicted LNAPL saturations when imbibition capillary pressure-saturation relations are employed versus main drainage capillary pressure-saturation relations. Although further testing of the model for different conditions and sites is warranted, the preliminary test of the model was positive when consideration was given to capillary pressure-saturation hysteresis, which suggests the model can yield reasonable predictions that can help develop and update conceptual site models for addressing subsurface LNAPL contamination. Parameters describing capillary pressure-saturation relations need to reflect conditions existing at the time when the fluid levels in a well are measured.
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