RICHLAND, Wash. – One of the nation’s most complex environmental management challenges is detecting, monitoring and remediating contaminated groundwater.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) works collaboratively with EM and its contractors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, other federal and state agencies, and tribes to protect and remediate groundwater from the impacts of legacy waste, energy facilities and infrastructure siting.
PNNL's groundwater capabilities span bench-, pilot-, and field-scale research, ranging from exploring new theories of water movement to deploying technically mature science-informed solutions for deep vadose zone cleanup remedies. The vadose zone is the area between the ground’s surface and the water table.
The United Nation’s World Water Day is today — March 22 — and this year's theme is “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible.”
Three researchers from PNNL’s multidisciplinary team shared how they’re helping protect groundwater at different stages of discovery. More information about their work can be found here.
- Carolyn Pearce, a subsurface systems scientist, is developing materials that can capture contaminants — like those with negatively charged ions found underground at the Hanford Site. “We’re working on ways to deploy (this capability) to the subsurface to treat hot spots,” Pearce said. “We’re also investigating ion exchange resins that are designed to remove several different contaminants, pumping up groundwater and using the resin to remove multiple contaminants, so we can subsequently pump the clean water back into the ground.”
- Glenn Hammond, a computational geohydrologist, developed a groundwater simulator code called PFLOTRAN that leverages a supercomputer to simulate water flow and soil chemistry in the subsurface. PFLOTRAN’s applications include looking at deep geologic repositories for hazardous waste and modeling how long it could take contaminants to reach a well.
- Chemical Engineer Radha Kishan Motkuri’s mission is to detect, capture and destroy per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), an emerging contaminant migrating into the environment from chemicals used in all types of materials. “With the New Jersey Institute of Technology, PNNL worked to combine multiple technologies into a single sensor device to offer detection at a level that’s parts per trillion,” Motkuri said. “We can detect PFAS in the field within 30 to 60 minutes. That saves a lot of time and money.”
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