Significance of Chemical Processes in the Deep Well Environment

Process

Partitioning

Acid-base equilibrium

Adsorption-desorption

Precipitation-dissolution

Immiscible-phase separation

Transformation

Biodegradation

Complexation

Hydrolysis

Neutralization

Oxidation-reduction

Detoxification

Mobility

Biotic/Abiotic

No No No No

Yes Yes Yes Yes

Both Abiotic Abiotic Both

Yes No Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes Yes No Yes

Biotic

Abiotic

Both

Abiotic

Both

Source: U.S. EPA, Assessing the Geochemical Fate of Deep-Well-Injected Hazardous Waste: A Reference Guide, EPA/625/ 6-89/025a, U.S. EPA, Cincinnati, OH, June 1990.

Table 20.5 also indicates whether a process is biotic (mediated or initiated by organisms in the environment), abiotic (not involving biological mediation), or both. Biotic processes are limited to environmental conditions that favor growth of mediating organisms. Abiotic processes occur under a wide range of conditions. Adsorption, precipitation, complexation, and neutralization are abiotic; all other processes in Table 20.5 may be either.

20.3.2 Partition Processes

Partition processes determine how a substance is distributed among the liquid, solid, and gas phases and determine the chemical form or species of a substance. Partitioning usually does not affect the toxic properties of the substance. Partitioning can, however, affect the mobility of the waste, its compatibility with the injection zone, or other factors that influence fate in the deep-well environment. The major partition processes are as follows:

1. Acid-base reactions

2. Adsorption-desorption

3. Precipitation-dissolution

4. Immiscible-phase separation

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