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Harvard School of Public Health

Superfund Research Program

Arsenic and Manganese Mobility: Land Use, Redox Shifts, and Environmental Sensors

Project Leader: Charles F. Harvey (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Grant Number: P42ES016454
Funding Period: 2010-2015
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Project Summary (2010-2014)

Over the last decade researchers have gained a detailed understanding of the static geochemical characteristics of arsenic- and manganese-contaminated aquifers and have characterized the rapid response of sediment to artificial chemical perturbations in incubation experiments. However, remarkably little is known about the basic aspects of hydrogeology that are vital for understanding the evolution of groundwater chemistry along flow paths that are contaminated by these metals. It is not known how the solute fluxes that drive manganese and arsenic mobility enter the aquifer, what patterns groundwater flow follows, or how solutes mix across different flow paths. Little is known about deeper groundwater flow, and basic issues such as the significance of regional flow and groundwater pumping are still controversial. In this project, networks of sensors and geophysical imaging techniques are combined with three-dimensional groundwater flow and transport models to characterize changing subsurface conditions. Researchers are observing how subsurface conditions may be altered by the installation of community supply wells, the most common approach to providing safe water, and they are developing predictive models for future shifts in groundwater chemistry. Results provide insight into the processes that cause metal mobilization from sediments, and enable better management of contaminated groundwater.

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