Chemical Processes Observed

Neutralization of the injected acids by the limestone formation led to concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and silica in the waste solution that were higher than those in the unneutralized wastes. Anaerobic decomposition of the organic matter in the injected waste apparently occurred through the action of both sulfate-reducing and methanogenic bacteria. Sulfate-reducing bacteria were observed in the injected wastes that were allowed to backflow to the surface. Sulfate levels in the native groundwater declined by 45%, and the concentration of hydrogen sulfide increased by 1600%. Methane fermentation (reduction of CO2 to CH4) was also inferred from the presence of both gases in the backflow fluid, but the presence of methanogenic bacteria was not confirmed. Increased hydrogen sulfide concentrations produced by the bacteria during biodegradation and the subsequent decrease in sulfate/chloride ratio in the observation wells were taken as indicators of upward and lateral migration. Migration into the shallow monitoring well was also indicated by a decline in pH from around 7.8 to 6.5, caused by mixing with the acidic wastes.

Chemical analyses of the backflowed injected waste that had been in the aquifer for about 2.5 months (for which some dilution had occurred) indicated that COD was about half that of the original waste. Samples that had been in residence for about 5 months had a COD approximately one-quarter that of the original waste (12,200 mg/L in the original waste compared with 4166 mg/L in the samples). The percent reduction in COD resulting from bacterial action rather than dilution was not estimated.

20.7.4 Case Study No. 4: Wilmington, NC

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