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GEOCHEMICAL AND INTERFACIAL APPLICATIONS FOR ASSESSING ECOLOGICAL TOXICANT EXPOSURES
There are four objectives of this work:
A: Updating/Assessing EPA's MINTEQA2 Geochemical Speciation Model
EPA has distributed the MINTEQA2 geochemical speciation model to the professional research community for several decades. Although the model has undergone a number of improvements during this period, this effort will involve: 1) expanding the thermodynamic data base in MINTEQA2 to include components not currently in the model, and 2) assessing the error associated with applying the low ionic strength activity coefficient algorithms in MINTEQA2 to marine and hypersaline aquatic systems.
B: Advancing the State-of-the-Science in Ionic Toxicant Adsorption to Natural Surfaces Modeling
There does not currently exist an accurate mechanistic model applicable to all environments for predicting the partitioning behavior of ionic contaminants to natural surfaces. The absence of accurate mechanistic models of ionic contaminant partitioning impairs EPA's efforts to apply the NRC Risk Assessment Paradigm to assess aqueous ionizable contaminant exposures. This work is designed to support current efforts to develop rigorous and defensible mechanistic adsorption models.
The following sub objectives will be addressed: 1) developing improved surface complexation adsorption models to incorporate variable charging energies, 2) developing an improved model of the protonation behavior of zwitterionic species, and 3) exploring current adsorption model "phase additivity" and "surface coating" paradigms to account for trace ionic contaminant adsorptive behavior in heterogeneous systems.
C: Advancing the State-of-the-Science of Air/Water Toxicant Vapor Exchange
Many toxicants of local, regional, continental and global significance display significant vapor phase transport and exchange between the atmosphere and underlying waters. It has been believed for several decades that temperature disequilibria between the atmosphere and underlying waters, and among atmospheric compartments around the globe, can have a significant effect on vapor phase contaminant migration. This work will extend the recently published temperature disequilibrium air/water exchange model for gaseous, elemental mercury to high windspeed conditions and to toxicants other than gaseous mercury.
Depending on the availability of resources, the following sub objectives will be addressed: 1) extending the current diel temperature disequilibrium gaseous mercury model to high wind speed conditions, 2) developing a rigorous method for assessing the affects of salinity and temperature on rates of elemental mercury air/water exchange, and 3) extending the model to contaminants other than mercury.
D: Assessing the Effects of Electrostatic Phenomena on Contaminant Fate and Transport in Porous Media
Recent findings (Loux and Anderson, 2001. Colloids and Surfaces, A., 177:123-131) have indicated that the net charge and surface potential on environmental surfaces can significantly perturb the pH and oxidation reduction potentials in the solid/water interfacial regions (when compared to the bulk solution). There exists, however, a nearly total dearth of information in the technical literature concerning the electrostatic properties of natural surfaces. It can be inferred from first principles that the electrostatic properties of natural surfaces can potentially modify the transport behavior of ionic contaminants in sedimentary porewaters. Again, either very little or no data exists in the technical research literature to address this issue. This work will involve enhancing EPA's capabilities to account for these phenomena in MINTEQA2.
The following areas will be addressed: 1) characterizing the electrostatic properties of natural environmental surfaces, and 2) assessing the role of electrostatic phenomena on charged particle transport in porous media.
Numerous publications in the past several years have demonstrated that a significant fraction of our nation's waterbodies and associated underlying sediments contain sufficient quantities of contaminants such that they pose unacceptable risks to both wildlife and human health. In contrast to heavily contaminated sites, ecological toxicant concentrations at the local/regional/continental scale are generally present at levels that lead to relatively low biological tissue residue concentrations that may even approach background values. In addition, these contaminants are often the refractory fraction remaining following natural biogeochemical degradation/re-speciation processes. These contaminants frequently result from/display significant atmospheric vapor phase transport and dispersal. This work involves improving EPA's geochemical and interfacial processes modeling capabilities for the purpose of developing tools that may ultimately be used for reducing the uncertainty in our ability to assess ecological toxicant exposures to levels approaching natural background variability.