The problem of allocating liability cleanup costs is an arduous task when more than one potentially responsible party has contributed to the groundwater plume. This problem is most likely to be encountered when dealing with methyl-tert -butyl-ether (MTBE) contamination, as MTBE is seen to travel large distances in underlying aquifers. There has been a significant effort in the recent past to develop liability allocation methodologies that incorporate fate and transport behavior and toxicological characteristics of the contaminants. The application of such methods often requires estimation of contaminant input from the vadose zone into the underlying aquifer. A screening level analysis is presented here to develop preliminary insights on relative mass contributions arising from different source types. The analysis illustrates how different vadose zone conceptualizations lead to vastly different contaminant loadings. Parametric studies indicate that the contaminant flux into the aquifer is very sensitive to changes in water infiltration rates. Hence, a reliable estimate of this parameter is critical for equitable allocation of remedial costs. Conceptual model formulation, should focus on identifying whether the fuel present in the aquifer can flow as a separate phase. It is also important to obtain reliable estimates for fluid saturations at the site.
- Allocation; cleanup; mass-flux; loadings; MTBE; vadose.