Predicting contaminant fate and transport in sediment caps: Mathematical modelling approaches

Jason Go, David J. Lampert, Julia A. Stegemann, Danny D. Reible

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Sediment capping is a remedial option for managing contaminated sediments that involves the artificial placement of a layer of material over a contaminated area. Sorbent materials such as activated C and coke can be used to amend sand caps to improve cap performance. In this study, analytical and numerical modelling approaches were compared for predicting contaminant fate and transport in sediment caps using several diffusion-controlled and advection-dominated contaminant transport scenarios. An analytical tool was used to predict cap performance at steady-state. These results were compared with the results from the numerical CoReTranS model in which the effective diffusivity and degradation rates were modelled as discontinuous functions at a prescribed bioturbation depth. The numerical approach was also applied to modelling a sorptive cap. It was shown that, while the analytical approach can be used to predict steady-state contaminant transport, the numerical approach is needed to evaluate multiple sediment layers with different transport and sorption characteristics and to examine the transient performance between the time that the single layer transient is applicable (i.e., before penetration of the cap containment layer) and until steady-state in the upper layer. For the 30 cm thick sand cap that was considered in this study, the predicted time to reach steady-state conditions for a diffusion-controlled scenario is 1 ka. For an advection-dominated transport, the time to reach steady-state conditions is reduced to 100 a. The activated C-amended sand cap was more effective in isolating the contaminant within the sorbent layer for a sustained period of time (∼100 a). Results from both modelling approaches showed that capping can effectively reduce contaminant flux to the overlying water with critical variables being cap thickness, groundwater velocity, and sediment sorptivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1347-1353
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2009


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