Evaluation of Anomalous Solute Transport in a Large Heterogeneous Soil Column with Mobile-Immobile Model
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This study uses the mobile-immobile model (MIM) and the traditional convection-dispersion equation (CDE) to analyze the observed breakthrough curves (BTCs) at different distances in a 1,250-cm-long saturated and highly heterogeneous soil column. It provides a simple method to determine the mobile water fraction independently as the ratio of effective porosity over total porosity of the packed soil materials. The effective porosity is calculated a priori as the ratio of measured flow rate and estimated pore-water velocity. It is found that there is a significant amount of immobile water in the soil column, resulting in the anomalous early breakthrough and tailing behaviors of the measured BTCs. Comparing to the CDE, the measured asymmetric BTCs at various scales can be better described by the MIM, especially their early arrival and long tailing parts. The degree of anomalous transport behavior in this large heterogeneous soil column is reduced with transport scale due to the increased mobile water fraction and associated greater solute mixing, and the MIM can detect this evolution adequately. The solute mass transfer timescales at various distances are compared to the advection timescales and longitudinal interaction timescales, respectively. It is found that the latter is better correlated with the timescales of solute mass transfer, which implies that the mass transfer rate in the heterogeneous soil column is predominantly subjected to the local velocity variation. 2009 ASCE.