A soil non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) flushing laboratory experiment based on measuring the dielectric properties of soil–organic mixtures via time domain reflectometry (TDR)
The term non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) refers to a group of organic compounds with scarce solubility in water. They are the products of various human activities and may be accidentally introduced into the soil system. Given their toxicity level and high mobility, NAPLs constitute a serious geo-environmental problem. Contaminant distribution in the soil and groundwater contains fundamental information for the remediation of polluted soil sites. The present research explored the possible employment of time domain reflectometry (TDR) to estimate pollutant removal in a silt-loam soil that was primarily contaminated with a corn oil as a light NAPL and then flushed with different washing solutions. Known mixtures of soil and NAPL were prepared in the laboratory to achieve soil specimens with varying pollution levels. The prepared soil samples were repacked into plastic cylinders and then placed in testing cells. Washing solutions were then injected upward into the contaminated sample, and both the quantity of remediated NAPL and the bulk dielectric permittivity of the soil sample were determined. The above data were also used to calibrate and validate a dielectric model (the α mixing model) which permits the volumetric NAPL content (θNAPL; m3 m−3) within the contaminated sample to be determined and quantified during the different decontamination stages. Our results demonstrate that during a decontamination process, the TDR device is NAPL-sensitive: the dielectric permittivity of the medium increases as the NAPL volume decreases. Moreover, decontamination progression can be monitored using a simple (one-parameter) mixing model.