Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016RI123B

Modeling and Simulation of Groundwater Contamination

Institute: Rhode Island
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,029 Total Non-Federal Funds: $40,447

Principal Investigators: Angelo Lucia

Abstract: Like many other states, Rhode Island has a number of potential sources of groundwater contamination from textile and chemical manufacturers, power plants, underground tank leakage from gas stations, commercial, and industrial storage facilities, etc. There is also the more challenging problem of non-point source (NPS) pollution, which is pollution that comes from a diverse set of sources such as runoff, failing sewer and septic systems, etc. NPS is both widespread and significant in magnitude. While stricter regulations, reporting, and cleanup procedures continue to evolve, there will always be accidents (spills, tank ruptures, etc.) and NPS pollution that impact water quality. For example, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) FY 2013 Annual Report [1] cites 531 oil spills in RI. While all of these spills did not necessarily contaminate groundwater some did. Of the 531 oil spills roughly 33% were from commercial/industrial facilities, 24% were residential spills, and 17% were transportation related. The RIDEM also states that "Available monitoring data reveal non-point pollution as a widespread problem affecting every watershed in the State. Non-point sources are suspected of contributing to the impairments in a majority of the surface waters included on the state's impaired waters list". See http://www.dem.ri.gov/ programs/benviron/water/quality/nonpoint/index.htm. Often times it is difficult to assess contamination (i.e., sources, how far contaminants will spread, their respective concentrations, and how long groundwater will be effected, and so on) . While measurements clearly contribute to understanding in some cases, they are frequently limited in scope and number. This can make understanding of the short and long term impacts of contamination difficult to quantify so that prevention, containment, cleanup, management, reporting, and public awareness and education can be properly implemented and managed in a time effective manner. One way to complement and improve the understanding and management of groundwater contamination is through computer modeling and simulation using tools that model the flow and transport of multi-component, multi-phase behavior through porous media. Many entities (e.g., first responders, clean-up contractors, environmental management agencies such as RI DEM, and others) would clearly benefits from knowledge provided by groundwater pollution simulations in many of the same ways that hurricane forecasters, emergency management agencies, and the public at large benefit from weather system simulation models. The primary objectives of this proposed research project are to (1) Demonstrate that the current set of multi-phase flow and transport modeling and simulation tools available in the Lucia group can be successfully applied to the modeling and simulation of groundwater contamination; (2) Provide locally available and timely support to RI municipal managers, clean-up contractors, and the RI DEM and other agencies that will strengthen understanding and quantification of the impact of contamination events and assist in their resolution; (3) Broaden the training of a PhD student working in the general area of modeling and simulation of complex sub-surface flow processes.