Evaluating effective reaction rates of kinetically driven solutes in large-scale, statistically anisotropic media: Human health risk implications

Erica R. Siirila, Reed M. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The interplay between regions of high and low hydraulic conductivity, degree of aquifer stratification, and rate-dependent geochemical reactions in heterogeneous flow fields is investigated, focusing on impacts of kinetic sorption and local dispersion on plume retardation and channeling. Human health risk is used as an endpoint for comparison via a nested Monte Carlo scheme, explicitly considering joint uncertainty and variability. Kinetic sorption is simulated with finely resolved, large-scale domains to identify hydrogeologic conditions where reactions are either rate limited (nonreactive), in equilibrium (linear equilibrium assumption is appropriate), or are sensitive to time-dependent kinetic reactions. By utilizing stochastic ensembles, effective equilibrium conditions are examined, in addition to parameter interplay. In particular, the effects of preferential flow pathways and solute mixing at the field-scale (marcrodispersion) and subgrid (local dispersion, LD) are examined for varying degrees of stratification and regional groundwater velocities (v). Results show effective reaction rates of kinetic ensembles with the inclusion of LD yield disequilibrium transport, even for averaged (or global) Damkholer numbers associated with equilibrium transport. Solute behavior includes an additive tailing effect, a retarded peak time, and results in an increased cancer risk. The inclusion of LD for nonreactive solutes in highly anisotropic media results in either induced solute retardation or acceleration, a new finding given that LD has previously been shown to affect only the concentration variance. The distribution, magnitude, and associated uncertainty of cancer risk are controlled by the up scaling of these small-scale processes, but are strongly dependent on v and the source term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW04527
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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