Zero-Valent Iron Permeable Reactive Barriers: A Review of Performance

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This report briefly reviews issues regarding the implementation of the zero-valent iron permeable reactive barrier (PRB) technology at sites managed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Initially, the PRB technology, using zero-valent iron for the reactive media, was received with great enthusiasm, and DOE invested millions of dollars testing and implementing PRBs. Recently, a negative perception of the technology has been building. This perception is based on the failure of some deployments to satisfy goals for treatment and operating expenses. The purpose of this report, therefore, is to suggest reasons for the problems that have been encountered and to ... continued below

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36 pages

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Korte, NE June 11, 2001.

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Description

This report briefly reviews issues regarding the implementation of the zero-valent iron permeable reactive barrier (PRB) technology at sites managed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Initially, the PRB technology, using zero-valent iron for the reactive media, was received with great enthusiasm, and DOE invested millions of dollars testing and implementing PRBs. Recently, a negative perception of the technology has been building. This perception is based on the failure of some deployments to satisfy goals for treatment and operating expenses. The purpose of this report, therefore, is to suggest reasons for the problems that have been encountered and to recommend whether DOE should invest in additional research and deployments. The principal conclusion of this review is that the most significant problems have been the result of insufficient characterization, which resulted in poor engineering implementation. Although there are legitimate concerns regarding the longevity of the reactive media, the ability of zero-valent iron to reduce certain chlorinated hydrocarbons and to immobilize certain metals and radionuclides is well documented. The primary problem encountered at some DOE full-scale deployments has been an inadequate assessment of site hydrology, which resulted in misapplication of the technology. The result is PRBs with higher than expected flow velocities and/or incomplete plume capture. A review of the literature reveals that cautions regarding subsurface heterogeneity were published several years prior to the full-scale implementations. Nevertheless, design and construction have typically been undertaken as if the subsurface was homogeneous. More recently published literature has demonstrated that hydraulic heterogeneity can cause so much uncertainty in performance that use of a passive PRB is precluded. Thus, the primary conclusion of this review is that more attention must be given to site-specific issues. Indeed, the use of a passive PRB requires an unusually comprehensive hydrologic characterization so that the design can be based on a thorough understanding of subsurface heterogeneity rather than on average values for hydraulic parameters. Scientists and engineers are capable of conducting the level of investigation required. However, design costs will increase, and the pre-design field work may demonstrate that a passive PRB is not suitable for a particular site. In such cases, an option to consider is hydraulic augmentation, such as pumping (in which the system is no longer passive) or gravity flow from drains. In these circumstances, operation of the treatment media is under known hydraulic conditions. These systems typically contain the treatment media in a vault or in drums. Most of the media problems in such systems have been related to the exclusion of air and can be addressed by better engineering design or by frequent maintenance. Finally, a number of outstanding issues require resolution for further application of this technology. Of particular interest to DOE is resolving the removal mechanisms for uranium and technetium. Few data are available for the latter, and for the former, the technical literature is contradictory. Determining the mechanisms has long-term cost implications; engineers must consider whether it is appropriate to remove or simply abandon a barrier that is no longer functioning. Other issues that are unresolved include determining how hydraulic performance is affected by the emplacement method and quantifying the effects of varying groundwater types on barrier longevity.

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36 pages

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  • Other Information: PBD: 11 Jun 2001

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2000/345
  • Grant Number: AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/814389 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 814389
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc739223

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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Creation Date

  • June 11, 2001

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Oct. 18, 2015, 6:40 p.m.

Description Last Updated

  • March 31, 2016, 1:16 p.m.

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Korte, NE. Zero-Valent Iron Permeable Reactive Barriers: A Review of Performance, report, June 11, 2001; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc739223/: accessed September 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.