Considerations Regarding Geochemical Transformations Downstream of Subsurface Wastewater Effluent Disposal Facilities

by P. P. Mathisen,

Abstract: Many suburban and rural communities use subsurface disposal in conjunction with on-site and other small decentralized systems. In addition, to reduce the impacts of wastewater treatment plant discharges on surface water resources, many communities are making use of subsurface disposal for the discharge of the effluent from larger treatment facilities as well. Even though these facilities don't discharge directly to surface water bodies, subsequent transport through groundwater can still introduce significant loads of nutrients and other contaminants to streams, lakes and coastal areas. As such, it is especially important to understand the transport, transformations, and attenuation experienced by nutrients and contaminants of concern as they move through the subsurface. Understanding subsurface transport and transformation is especially important in light of the concerns regarding nutrient impacts on surface waters and emerging contaminants. However, the processes governing the transport and transformations of constituents associated with subsurface disposal facilities are complex and difficult to characterize. Basic approaches are necessary to understand and quantify attenuation and transformations related to key constituents. This paper presents the results of a series of analyses to characterize geochemical transformations along flow paths down-gradient of three subsurface disposal facilities. For the purposes of this presentation, one subsurface disposal facility is considered in detail, with others noted for comparison.

Subject Headings: Subsurface environment | Wastewater treatment plants | Water treatment plants | Water discharge | Surface water | Nutrients | Effluents

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