Multidimensional simulation of PFAS transport and leaching in the vadose zone: impact of surfactant-induced flow and soil heterogeneities

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Authors

Jicai Zeng, Bo Guo

Abstract

PFAS are emergent contaminants of which fate and transport in the environment remain poorly understood. As surfactants, adsorption at air-water interfaces and solid surfaces in soils complicates the retention and leaching of PFAS in the vadose zone. Recent modeling studies accounting for the PFAS-specific nonlinear adsorption processes predicted that the majority of long-chain PFAS remain in the shallow vadose zone decades after contamination ceases—in agreement with many field measurements. However, some field investigations show that long-chain PFAS have migrated to tens to a hundred meters below ground surface. These discrepancies may be attributed to model simplifications such as a one-dimensional (1D) representation of the homogeneous vadose zone. Another potentially critical process that has not been fully examined by the 1D models is how surfactant-induced flow (SIF) influences PFAS leaching in multidimensions. We develop a new three-dimensional model for PFAS transport in the subsurface to investigate the multidimensional effects of SIF and soil heterogeneities. Our simulations and analyses conclude that 1) SIF has a minimal impact on the long-term leaching of PFAS in the vadose zone, 2) preferential flow pathways generated by soil heterogeneities lead to early arrival and accelerated leaching of (especially long-chain) PFAS, 3) the acceleration of PFAS leaching in high water-content preferential pathways or perched water above capillary barriers is more prominent than conventional contaminants due to the destruction of air-water interfaces, and 4) soil heterogeneities are among primary sources of uncertainty for predicting PFAS leaching and retention in the vadose zone.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.31223/X55334

Subjects

Environmental Health and Protection, Hydrology, Soil Science

Keywords

heterogeneity, PFAS, surfactant-induced flow, preferential flow, air-water interfacial adsorption, solid-phase adsorption

Dates

Published: 2021-06-30 19:48

License

CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Data Availability (Reason not available):
This is a computational study. All of the model input parameters are presented in the main manuscript and the appendices

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