The long-term performance of rapid infiltration basin systems (RIBS) and their potential impacts on the receiving environment have been previously unknown for Delaware. A variety of field experiments were conducted to characterize the geology and hydrogeology of a RIBS facility that has been in operation for more than 20 years at Cape Henlopen State Park. Pairs of standard monitoring wells and short-screened multi-level wells were used to evaluate the significance of small-scale vertical variability in water quality. A three-dimensional transient groundwater flow and contaminant transport model was constructed to simulate the groundwater mounding and the movements of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3--N) and orthophosphorus (OP) in the groundwater. In the numerical model, NO3--N was treated as a reactive species and denitrification was simulated with a first-order degradation rate constant. The major mechanism affecting OP transport in groundwater is sorption/desorption, which was simulated using a linear sorption isotherm. Simulated concentrations reasonably fit observed concentrations of NO3--N and OP in both standard wells and multi-level wells. The calibrated model predicts that with a denitrification rate of 0.006/day and a distribution coefficient of 4×10-7 L/mg, 63 percent of the reduction in the mass of NO3--N is attributable to denitrification, and more than 99 percent of OP is detained in the aquifer due to sorption on subsurface solids. However, the long-term operation of RIBS has led to a reduction of the sorption capacity of subsurface solids for phosphorous, resulting in significant concentrations of OP in groundwater adjacent to RIBS.
University of Delaware
Delaware Geological Survey Building
Newark, DE 19716
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