Deep vadose zone environments can be a primary source and pathway for contaminant migration to groundwater. These environments present unique characterization and remediation challenges that necessitate scrutiny and research. The thickness, depth, and intricacies of the deep vadose zone, combined with a lack of understanding of the key subsurface processes (e.g., biogeochemical and hydrologic) affecting contaminant migration, make it difficult to create validated conceptual and predictive models of subsurface flow dynamics and contaminant behavior across multiple scales. These factors also make it difficult to design and deploy sustainable remedial approaches and monitor long-term contaminant behavior after remedial actions. Functionally, methods for addressing contamination must remove and/or reduce transport of contaminants. This problem is particularly challenging in the arid western United States where the vadose zone is hundreds of feet thick, rendering transitional excavation methods exceedingly costly and ineffective. Delivery of remedial amendments is one of the most challenging and critical aspects for all remedy-based approaches. The conventional approach for delivery is through heterogeneous deep vadose zone environments present hydrologic and geochemical challenges that limit the effectiveness. Because the flow of solution infiltration is dominantly controlled by gravity and suction, injected liquid preferentially percolates through highly permeable pathways, by-passing low-permeability zones that frequently contain the majority of contamination. Moreover, the wetting front can readily mobilize and enhance contaminant transport to the underlying aquifer prior to stabilization. Development of innovative in-situ technologies may be the only means to meet remedial action objectives and long-term stewardship goals. Surfactants can be used to lower the liquid surface tension and create stabile foams, which readily penetrate low permeability zones. Although surfactant foams have been used for subsurface mobilization efforts in the oil and gas industry, thus far the concept of using foams as a delivery mechanism for transporting remedial amendments into deep vadose zone environments to stabilize metal and long-lived radionuclide contaminants has not been explored. Foam flow can be directed by pressure gradients, rather than being dominated by gravity; and foam delivery mechanisms limit the volume of water (< 5% vol.) required for remedy delivery and emplacement, thus mitigating contaminant mobilization. We will present the results of a numerical modeling and integrated laboratory-/intermediate-scale investigation to simulate, develop, demonstrate, and monitor (i.e., advanced geophysical techniques and advanced predictive biomarkers) foam-based delivery of remedial amendments to remediate metals and radionuclides in vadose zone environments.

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