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Aquifer Vulnerability to Pesticide Migration Through Till Aquitards
Ground Water (2004)
  • Peter R. Jorgensen
  • Larry McKay, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Jens P. Kistrup, University of Copenhagen
This study investigates the influence of key factors - mainly recharge rate and degradation half-life - on downward migration of the widely used pesticide mecoprop (MCPP) through a typical clayey till aquitard. The study uses the numerical model FRAC3Dvs, which is a three-dimensional discrete fracture/matrix diffusion (DFMD) numerical transport model. The model was calibrated with laboratory and field data from a site near Havdrup, Denmark, but the overall findings are expected to be relevant to many other sites in similar settings. Fracture flow and MCPP transport Parameters for the model were obtained through calibration using well-characterized laboratory experiments with large (0.5 m diameter by 0.5 m high) undisturbed columns of the fractured till and a field experiment. A second level of upscaling and sensitivity analysis was then carried out using data on hydraulic head, fracture spacing, and water budget from the field site. The simulations of downward migration of MCPP show that MCPP concentration and mass flux into the underlying aquifer, and hence the aquifer vulnerability to this pesticide compound, is mainly dependent on the degradation rate of the pesticide, the overall aquitard water budget, and the ground water recharge rate into the aquifer. The influence of flow rate, matrix diffusion, and degradation rate are intertwined. This results in one to four ordrs of magnitude higher MCPP flux into the aquifer from aquifer recharge rates of 20 and 120 mm/yr, respectively, for no degradation and MCPP half-life of 0.5 yr. From a sensitivity analysis it was found that the range of MCPP flux into the aquifer varied less than one order of magnitude due to (1) changing fracture spacing from 1 to 10 m, or (2) preferential flow along inclined thin sand layers, which represent common conditions for the current and other settings of clayey till in Denmark and other glaciated areas in Europe and North America. The results indicate that for aquifers overlain by fractured clayey tills, the vulnerability to contamination with pesticides (pesticide flux into the aquifer) and other widespread agricultural contaminants is going to vary strongly in the watershed as a function of the distribution of aquitard water budget (flow rate) and aquitard redox environment (controlling contaminant degradation rates), even if the thickness of the till is relatively constant. DFMD modeling of cause-effect relationships within such systems has great potential to support decisions in planning, regulation, and contaminant remediation.
Publication Date
November, 2004
Citation Information
Peter R. Jorgensen, Larry McKay and Jens P. Kistrup. "Aquifer Vulnerability to Pesticide Migration Through Till Aquitards" Ground Water Vol. 42 Iss. 6 (2004)
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