American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Preliminary Evaluation of a Permeable Reactive Barrier for Reducing Groundwater Nitrate Transport from a Large Onsite Wastewater System

Charles Humphrey, Sushama Pradhan, Eban Bean, Michael O’Driscoll and Guy Iverson

DOI : 10.3844/ajessp.2015.216.226

American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Volume 11, Issue 4

Pages 216-226


A permeable reactive barrier was installed between a large Onsite Wastewater System (OWS) and a monitoring well located down-gradient from the OWS. Groundwater samples from the well had shown elevated and increasing concentrations of NO3--N (>20 mg L-1 for 2 years). The barrier was constructed using woodchips from various tree species that were placed in a trench excavated to approximately the same depth as the well which was experiencing elevated NO3--N concentrations. Groundwater samples (5) were collected from the well between two weeks and four months after the barrier was installed. Groundwater NO3--N concentrations dropped by an average of 5 mg L-1, while Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) concentrations increased by 11 mg L-1 and Cl concentrations stayed relatively stable (<2 mg L-1 increase). The data suggest that denitrification fueled by the DOC from the barrier may be contributing to the lower NO3--N concentrations. Monitoring will continue at the site to determine the longer-term water quality trends. More research should be conducted to evaluate the applicability of permeable barriers as a best management practice for non-point sources of pollution in nutrient sensitive areas.


© 2015 Charles Humphrey, Sushama Pradhan, Eban Bean, Michael O’Driscoll and Guy Iverson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.