SEGH Articles

Flux Based Management of a Groundwater Pollution: from Mass Flux Measurements to Regulatory Decisions

01 August 2011
Goedele Verrydt won the Springer / Hemphill Prize for Student Oral Presentation at SEGH 2011 in Ormskirk, UK.


Goedele Verreydt, M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering (2004), commenced her PhD in the Department of Biology at the University of Antwerp in January 2008. Her PhD research concerns the determination and calculation of groundwater contaminant mass fluxes in the frame of a groundwater management, which she performs in the research group Land and Water Management at the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Mol, Belgium.

The management of contaminated groundwater is very challenging. Most decisions regarding groundwater pollutions are driven by contaminant concentrations. Since concentration estimates may be highly uncertain and do not include the fluctuations caused by spatially and temporally varying hydrologic conditions, these strategies can be improved by additionally considering contaminant mass fluxes (mass of contaminants passing per unit time per unit area) and contaminant mass discharges (sum of all mass flux measures across an entire plume). The contaminant mass that effectively reaches a downgradient receptor, determines the actual risks for the receptor and should therefore be monitored on site. The combined monitoring of contaminant mass fluxes and groundwater fluxes along a control plane is possible with Passive Flux Meters (PFMs), recently developed passive sampling devices that are installed in monitoring wells for a certain period of time.


The main objectives of this study are:

  • to delineate a robust interpretation method for the measurement and calculation of groundwater contaminant fluxes, based on mass flux measurement with Passive Flux Meters (PFMs);
  • to define a clear strategy that supports regulatory decisions in a flux and risk based groundwater management.

The PFM consists of a permeable sorbent infused with soluble tracers packed in a nylon mesh tube. The measurements of the captured contaminants and the remaining resident tracer on the sorbent are used to estimate respectively contaminant and groundwater fluxes.

To calibrate and validate the PFMs, lab as well as field experiments are performed. In addition, the measured water fluxes and contaminant mass fluxes are compared to the results obtained by traditional measurement techniques. The proposed management strategy is based on a source-path-receptor approach.

The PFM has proven to be a valuable instrument for the measurement of contaminant mass flux in groundwater. The extrapolation options of the PFM flux data are defined. Mass discharge can be estimated by integrating the PFM mass flux data throughout the control plane, which converts the individual flux values to a time-stamped cumulative flux (or discharge value). Further, a theoretical framework for a flux based management strategy is set by introducing the term CMDmax (maximum accepted contaminant mass discharge) at a predefined plane of compliance, i.e. a control plane orthogonal to the main flow direction and upgradient the receptor. The proposed strategy includes remedial action if the CMDmax is exceeded.

 G. Verreydt1,2, I. Van keer1 and J. Bronders1

1VITO, Land and Water Management, Boeretang 200, 2400 Mol, Belgium

2Artesis University College of Antwerp, Paardenmarkt 92, 2000 Antwerpen

 Figure shows Mrs. Verreydt retrieving a PFM during a field demonstration in Rijmenam, Belgium.

 Annable, L.D., K. Hatfield, J. Cho, H. Klammler, B.L. Parker, J.A. Cherry and P.S.C. Rao. 2005. Field-Scale Evaluation of the Passive Flux Meter for Simultaneous Measurement of Groundwater and Contaminant Fluxes. Environmental Science & Technology 39(18): 7194-7201.     

Verreydt, G., Bronders, J., Van Keer, I., Diels, L. & Vanderauwera, P. (2010) Passive samplers for monitoring VOCs in groundwater and the prospects related to mass flux measurements. Ground Water Monitoring and Remediation 30(2): 114-126.

Keep up to date

SEGH Events

Submit Content

Members can keep in touch with their colleagues through short news and events articles of interest to the SEGH community.

Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Biochar-based constructed wetlands to treat reverse osmosis rejected concentrates in chronic kidney disease endemic areas in Sri Lanka 2017-12-01


    The objectives were to investigate the potential remedial measures for reverse osmosis (RO) rejected water through constructed wetlands (CWs) with low-cost materials in the media established in chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) prevalent area in Sri Lanka. A pilot-scale surface and subsurface water CWs were established at the Medawachchiya community-based RO water supply unit. Locally available soil, calicut tile and biochar were used in proportions of 81, 16.5 and 2.5% (w/w), respectively, as filter materials in the subsurface. Vetiver grass and Scirpus grossus were selected for subsurface wetland while water lettuce and water hyacinth were chosen for free water surface CWs. Results showed that the CKDu sensitive parameters; total dissolved solids, hardness, total alkalinity and fluoride were reduced considerably (20–85%) and most met desirable levels of stipulated ambient standards. Biochar seemed to play a major role in removing fluoride from the system which may be due to the existing and adsorbed K+, Ca+2, Mg+2, etc. on the biochar surface via chemisorption. The least reduction was observed for alkalinity. This study indicated potential purification of aforesaid ions in water which are considerably present in RO rejection. Therefore, the invented bio-geo constructed wetland can be considered as a sustainable, economical and effective option for reducing high concentrations of CKDu sensitive parameters in RO rejected water before discharging into the inland waters.

  • Medical geology of endemic goiter in Kalutara, Sri Lanka; distribution and possible causes 2017-12-01


    This study assesses the distribution of goiter in the Kalutara District, Sri Lanka in order to find causative factors for the occurrence of goiter even after the salt iodization. A questionnaire survey was conducted at the household level and at the same time iodine and selenium levels of the water sources were analyzed. Questionnaire survey results indicated the highest numbers of goiter patients in the northern part where the lowest were found in the southern sector which may be due to the presence of acid sulfate soils. Females were more susceptible and it even showed a transmittance between generations. Average iodine concentrations in subsurface water of goiter endemic regions are 28.25 ± 15.47 μg/L whereas non-goiter regions show identical values at 24.74 ± 18.29 μg/L. Surface water exhibited relatively high values at 30.87 ± 16.13 μg/L. Endemic goiter was reported in some isolated patches where iodine and selenium concentrations low, latter was <10 μg/L. The formation of acid sulfate soils in the marshy lands in Kalutara district may lead to transformation of biological available iodine oxidation into volatile iodine by humic substances, at the same time organic matter rich peaty soil may have strong held of iodine and selenium which again induced by low pH and high temperature were suggested as the instrumental factors in the endemic goiter in Kalutara district. Hence, geochemical features such as soil pH, organic matter and thick lateritic cap in the Kalutara goiter endemic area play a role in controlling the available selenium and iodine for food chain through plant uptake and in water.

  • Nickel accumulation in paddy rice on serpentine soils containing high geogenic nickel contents in Taiwan 2017-12-01


    We investigated the extractability of nickel (Ni) in serpentine soils collected from rice paddy fields in eastern Taiwan to evaluate the bioavailability of Ni in the soils as well as for demonstrating the health risks of Ni in rice. Total Ni concentrations in the soils ranged were 70.2–2730 mg/kg (mean, 472 mg/kg), greatly exceeding the natural background content and soil control standard in Taiwan. Available Ni concentration only accounts for <10% of total soil Ni content; 0.1 N HCl-extractable Ni was the more suitable index for Ni bioavailability in the soil to rice than was diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid (DTPA)-extractable Ni. The accumulation ability of rice roots was much higher than that of its shoots; however, compared with those reported previously, our brown and polished rice samples contained much higher Ni concentrations, within the ranges of 1.50–4.53 and 2.45–5.54 mg/kg, respectively. On the basis of the provisional tolerable Ni intake for adults recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), daily consumption of this rice can result in an excessive Ni intake.