Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Geosciences

Advisor's Name

René M. Price

Advisor's Title

Committee Chair

Advisor's Name

William T. Anderson

Advisor's Name

Michael E. McClain

Advisor's Name

Michael C. Sukop

Keywords

wastewater disposal, deep well injection, carbonate aquifer, confining units, ammonia, stable isotopes, helium tritium dating

Date of Defense

7-16-2012

Abstract

Deep well injection into non-potable saline aquifers of treated domestic wastewater has been used in Florida for decades as a safe and effective alternative to ocean outfall disposal. The objectives of this study were to determine the fate and transport of injected wastewater at two deep well injection sites in Miami Dade County, Florida, USA. Detection of ammonium in the Middle Confining units of the Floridan aquifer above the injection zone at both sites has been interpreted as evidence of upward migration of injected wastewater, posing a risk to underground sources of drinking water. Historical water quality data, including ammonia, chloride, temperature, and pH from existing monitoring wells at both sites from 1983 to 2008, major ions collected monthly from 2006 and 2008, and a synoptic sampling event for stable isotopes, tritium, and dissolved gases in 2008, were used to determine the source of ammonium in groundwater and possible migration pathways. Geochemical modeling was used to determine possible effects of injected wastewater on native water and aquifer matrix geochemistry.

Injected wastewater was determined to be the source of elevated ammonium concentrations above ambient water levels, based on the results of major ion concentrations, tritium, dissolved noble gases and 15N isotopes analyses. Various possible fluid migration pathways were identified at the sites. Data for the south site suggest buoyancy-driven vertical pathways to overlying aquifers bypassing the confining units, with little mixing of injected wastewater with native water as it migrated upward. Once it is introduced into an aquifer, the injectate appeared to migrate advectively with the regional groundwater flow. Geochemical modeling indicated that CO2 -enriched injected wastewater allowed for carbonate dissolution along the vertical pathways, enhancing permeability along these flowpaths. At the north site, diffusive upward flow through the confining units or offsite vertical pathways were determined to be possible, however no evidence was detected for any on-site confining unit bypass pathway. No evidence was observed at either site of injected wastewater migration to the Upper Floridan aquifer, which is used as a municipal water supply and for aquifer storage and recovery.

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