Publication Details

Regmi, G, Indraratna, B and Nghiem, LD, Long-term performance of a permeable reactive barrier in acid sulphate soil terrain, Water, Air and Soil Pollution: an international journal of environmental pollution, 9(5/6), 2009, 409-419.


Deep drainage technique utilised for flood mitigation in low-land coastal areas of Australia during the late 1960s has resulted in the generation of sulphuric acid in soil by the oxidation of pyritic materials. Further degradation of the subsurface environment with widespread contamination of the underlying soil and groundwater presents a major and challenging environmental issue in acid sulphate soil (ASS) terrains. Although several ASS remediation techniques recently implemented in the floodplain of Southeast Australia including operation of gates, tidal buffering and lime injections could significantly control the pyrite oxidation, they could not improve the long-term water quality. More recently, permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) filled with waste concrete aggregates have received considerable attention as an innovative, cost-effective technology for passive in situ clean up of groundwater contamination. However, long-term efficiency of these PRBs for treating acidic groundwater has not been established. This study analyses and evaluates the performance of a field PRB for treating the acidic water over 2.5 years. The pilot-scale alkaline PRB consisting of recycled concrete was installed in October 2006 at a farm of southeast New South Wales for treating ASS-impacted groundwater. Monitoring data of groundwater quality over a 30 month period were assessed to evaluate the long-term performance of the PRB. Higher pH value (~pH 7) of the groundwater immediately downstream of the PRB and higher rates of iron (Fe) and aluminium (Al) removal efficiency (>95%) over this study period indicates that recycled concrete could successfully treat acidic groundwater. However, the overall pH neutralising capacity of the materials within the barrier declined with time from an initial pH 10.2 to pH 7.3. The decline in the performance with time was possibly due to the armouring of the reactive material surface by the mineral precipitates in the form of iron and aluminium hydroxides and oxyhydroxides as indicated by geochemical modelling.

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