In situ biodegradation of high explosives in soils: Field demonstration

Ken Rainwater, Caryl Heintz, Tony Mollhagen, Lance Hansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The first field pilot-scale demonstration of a technology for in situ remediation of vadose zone soils contaminated with high explosives (HEs) has been performed at the Department of Energy's Pantex Plant. The HEs of concern at the demonstration site were hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX) and the 2,4,6- trinitrotoluene (TNT) metabolite 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene (TNB). Concentrations ranged from 70 ppm, above the (prior to 1999) risk reduction clean-up criteria of 2.6 and 0.51 ppm, respectively. The shallow (<10 m depth) soils at the site could not be excavated due to the presence of buried utilities. Based on previous laboratory studies, it was found that the contaminated soils had indigenous microbial populations that could be stimulated to degrade the RDX and TNB anaerobically. A 5-spot well pattern with injection at the central well and extraction at the four outer wells (each 4.6 m from the injection well) was used to flood the target vadose zone soils with nitrogen gas with the intent of stimulating the activity of the HE degraders. The system was monitored periodically for gas composition as well as HE concentrations and microbial activity in retrievable soil samples. After 295 days of in situ treatment, the average target HE concentrations were approximately one-third lower than the initial site averages. Operation of the pilot-scale treatment system continues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-371
Number of pages21
JournalBioremediation Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002


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