Modeling long term Enhanced in situ Biodenitrification and induced heterogeneity in column experiments under different feeding strategies

Paula Rodríguez-Escales*, Albert Folch, Boris M. van Breukelen, Georgina Vidal-Gavilan, Xavier Sanchez-Vila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Enhanced In situ Biodenitrification (EIB) is a capable technology for nitrate removal in subsurface water resources. Optimizing the performance of EIB implies devising an appropriate feeding strategy involving two design parameters: carbon injection frequency and C:N ratio of the organic substrate nitrate mixture. Here we model data on the spatial and temporal evolution of nitrate (up to 1.2 mM), organic carbon (ethanol), and biomass measured during a 342 day-long laboratory column experiment (published in Vidal-Gavilan et al., 2014). Effective porosity was 3% lower and dispersivity had a sevenfold increase at the end of the experiment as compared to those at the beginning. These changes in transport parameters were attributed to the development of a biofilm. A reactive transport model explored the EIB performance in response to daily and weekly feeding strategies. The latter resulted in significant temporal variation in nitrate and ethanol concentrations at the outlet of the column. On the contrary, a daily feeding strategy resulted in quite stable and low concentrations at the outlet and complete denitrification. At intermediate times (six months of experiment), it was possible to reduce the carbon load and consequently the C:N ratio (from 2.5 to 1), partly because biomass decay acted as endogenous carbon to respiration, keeping the denitrification rates, and partly due to the induced dispersivity caused by the well-developed biofilm, resulting in enhancement of mixing between the ethanol and nitrate and the corresponding improvement of denitrification rates. The inclusion of a dual-domain model improved the fit at the last days of the experiment as well as in the tracer test performed at day 342, demonstrating a potential transition to anomalous transport that may be caused by the development of biofilm. This modeling work is a step forward to devising optimal injection conditions and substrate rates to enhance EIB performance by minimizing the overall supply of electron donor, and thus the cost of the remediation strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-137
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • Biofilm growth
  • C:N ratio
  • Column experiment
  • Denitrification
  • Dual domain
  • Feeding strategy


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