Natural Remediation of Contaminated Soil and Ground Water by Barometric Pumping

EPA Grant Number: R826162
Title: Natural Remediation of Contaminated Soil and Ground Water by Barometric Pumping
Investigators: Smith, James A.
Institution: University of Virginia
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: January 1, 1998 through December 31, 2001 (Extended to August 31, 2002)
Project Amount: $360,027
RFA: Exploratory Research - Environmental Engineering (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Land and Waste Management


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and carbon tetrachloride are common contaminants in shallow ground water. Because of the large areal extent of many ground-water plumes and the volatile nature of these ground-water pollutants, volatilization into the unsaturated-zone air and transport to land surface may be an important natural ground-water remediation mechanism. However, no simple technique to measure the loss of VOCs from the subsurface to the atmosphere has been developed and rigorously tested at the laboratory and field scale. The hypothesis of this research is that air flow in the unsaturated zone in response to natural atmospheric pressure variations (e.g., barometric pumping) causes a significant flux of volatile organic contaminants (VOCs) from the subsurface to the atmosphere at contaminated field sites. Furthermore, this flux can be directly quantified by a simple, inexpensive technique that employs a "vertical flux chamber" (VFC) at land surface. This VFC can be used to quantify the natural remediation of contaminated sites by barometric pumping.


This research will develop and test a simple, inexpensive "vertical flux chamber" to quantify the fluxes of VOCs from the unsaturated zone to land surface. This vertical flux chamber (VFC) will allow for direct measurement of the losses of VOCs from the subsurface to the atmosphere for a contaminated soil and ground-water system.

Expected Results:

This information is critical to management decisions related to the quantification of natural attenuation rates of pollutants.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 21 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

groundwater, chemical transport, adsorption, VOC, toxics, remediation, hydrology, engineering, measurement methods., Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Water, Waste, Hydrology, Contaminated Sediments, Environmental Chemistry, Remediation, VOCs, 33/50, Environmental Engineering, Groundwater remediation, barometric pumping, carbon tetrachloride, atmospheric processes, contaminant transport, soil sediment, contaminated sediment, groundwater plumes, verticle flux chamber, Tetrachloroethylene, chemical contaminants, chemical transport, natural attenuation

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998 Progress Report
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001
  • Final Report