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Natural Attenuation of MTBE in an Anaerobic Groundwater Plume - Advanced Fuel Hydrocarbon Remediation National Test Location

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Methyl tertiary butyl ether MTBE is a compound commonly added to petroleum fuels as an oxygenate or octane enhancer often at concentrations above 10 by volume. MTBE is currently in 70 of the gasoline used in the U.S. Due to its high water solubility, it is commonly a significant groundwater contaminant at sites affected by fuel spills. Once in the groundwater, MTBE migrates due to predominate water flow with little retardation, but may be removed by volatilization or degradation under the right conditions. A natural attenuation study is being conducted at Port Hueneme, California, to gather information on the behavior and degradation of MTBE under conditions common to fuel contaminated sites, under oxygen depleted conditions, resulting from microbial degradation of other petroleum hydrocarbons. The study site is an existing fuel hydrocarbon plume that resulted from 1984 fuel release at the Navy Exchange service station at Port Hueneme, California. The plume occurs in a shallow semi-perched water table aquifer. Constituents of concern are the compounds, benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene the BTEX compounds and MTBE. A numerical model of the groundwater flow at the study site will be developed to better understand the relative importance of advectiondispersion and degradation to the migration of MTBE. Tracer tests will yield quantitative information on the fate of MTBE during migration under reducing conditions in the presence of other fuel hydrocarbons. Numerical model data will provide a means to transfer information learned at this site to other DOD and Na sites where MTBE contamination is present.

Subject Categories:

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Logistics, Military Facilities and Supplies
  • Water Pollution and Control

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