Literature Study on Redox Control for Infiltration Ponds and other Subsurface Systems


Artificial Recharge (AR) is a method to replenish groundwater in case of insufficient water availability or poor quality. For drinking water production, AR is often used as water purification step to avoid direct surface water abstraction. Besides physical filtration, purification is achieved through chemical processes like precipitation, sorption and (bio-) degradation. These are usually closely linked to redox conditions. It is the activity of micro-organisms and related chemical reactions that change the redox conditions, which in turn control the presence of substances and therefore the water quality. Typical pollutants in surface water that need to be addressed are organic compounds (e.g. pharmaceutical residues or pesticides), pathogens and heavy metals. The purpose of this report is to introduce the theoretical background on redox zoning in infiltration ponds and to review publications in the search for applicable methods capable of controlling redox conditions. This shall serve as basis for further laboratory and technical scale experiments in the course of the OXIRED project. The “optimal redox zonation” for maximum removal of redox-dependent substances is a concept with the aim of defining optimum residence times based on the degradation kinetics of contaminants in the source water: If substances or substance groups that show enhanced removal under anoxic to anaerobic conditions are not present in the source water at drinking water relevant concentrations, anoxic to anaerobic conditions should be avoided in order not to mobilize iron and other inorganic trace elements. Maximum benefit for aerobic subsurface passage is reached after 30 d, for anoxic / anaerobic subsurface passage after 100 d. However, already 15 d of aerobic and 2 d of anoxic / anaerobic passage lead to substantial removal or redox-sensitive substances or substance groups. The main drivers for redox zonation in AR systems are the availability of oxidizing agents (oxygen, nitrate), of reducing agents (organic matter, reduced mineral phases), of nutrients, the biological activity (in infiltration pond and subsurface), and the residence time. These drivers are in turn controlled by many natural, site-specific (exogenous) and design & operation-related (decision) variables. Exogenous variables are e.g. aquifer geochemistry, temperature or natural groundwater recharge whereas the decision variables comprise factors such as pond geometry, distance between pond and well, well depth, pumping rate etc. Theoretically, a wide range of possibilities could be applied to adjust the infiltration pond, the hyporheic zone and the subsurface passage, but only few seem technically feasible. These are e.g. the control of sunlight and temperature in the infiltration pond and upper sediment, the control of water movement in the pond to avoid excessive algal growth while enriching the water with oxygen. For the same reason nutrients could be added or avoided, influencing biomass production. Specific filter material could be used with defined content and characteristic of organic carbon to serve as electron acceptors. Infiltration rates could be controlled by adjusting the hydraulic head in order to enhance the formation of an unsaturated zone. Further downstream the application of redox controlling substances via injection wells could be possible, as well as controlling the residence times by adjusting pumping rates or creating hydraulic barrier wells at different distances from infiltration pond. For newly constructed AR systems the well field design (pond geometry, distance between pond and well, well depth) could be optimized with respect to redox zonation, as long as the other requirements (mainly sufficient production rates) are met. No examples for redox control in infiltration ponds were identified. Therefore, two examples of redox control measures are described: the first serves an artificial reoxidation of a polluted aquifer “BIOXWAND®” and the second provides injection of treated water to influence the redox conditions in the aquifer “Vyridox” and “Nitridox”.

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