Process-Based Reactive Transport Modeling of a Permeable Reactive Barrier for the Treatment of Mine Drainage

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Reactive transport modeling of a permeable reactive barrier for the treatment of mine drainage was used to integrate a comprehensive data set including pore water chemistry and solid phase data from several sampling events over a >3-year time period. The simulations consider the reduction of sulfate by the organic carbon-based treatment material and the removal of sulfate and iron by precipitation of reduced mineral phases including iron monosulfides and siderite. Additional parameters constraining the model include dissolved H2S, alkalinity and pH, as well as a suite of solid phase S-fractions identified by extractions. Influences of spatial heterogeneity necessitated the use of a 2-dimensional modeling approach. Simulating observed seasonal fluctuations and long-term changes in barrier reactivity required the use of temperature dependent rate coefficients and a multimodal Monod-type rate expression accounting for the variable reactivity of different organic carbon fractions. Simulated dissolved concentrations of SO4, Fe, H2S, alkalinity and pH, as well as solid phase accumulations of reduced sulfur phases generally compare well to observed trends over 23 months. Spatial variations, seasonal fluctuations and the time-dependent decline in reactivity were also captured. The modeling results generally confirm, and further strengthen, the existing conceptual model for the site. Overall sulfate reduction and S-accumulation rates are constrained with confidence within a factor of 1.5.