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Groundwater remediation design using physics-based flow, transport, and optimization technologies

Larry M Deschaine12*, Theodore P Lillys1 and János D Pintér3

Author Affiliations

1 HydroGeoLogic, Inc., Reston, VA 20190, USA

2 Department of Energy & Environment, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, SE 412 96, Sweden

3 PCS Inc, Halifax, NS, Canada

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Environmental Systems Research 2013, 2:6  doi:10.1186/2193-2697-2-6

Published: 4 May 2013



The purpose of this work was to demonstrate an approach to groundwater remedial design that is automated, cost-effective, and broadly applicable to contaminated aquifers in different geologic settings. The approach integrates modeling and optimization for use as a decision support framework for the optimal design of groundwater remediation systems employing pump and treat and re-injection technologies. The technology resulting from the implementation of the methodology, which we call Physics-Based Management Optimization (PBMO), integrates physics-based groundwater flow and transport models, management science, and nonlinear optimization tools to provide stakeholders with practical, optimized well placement locations and flow rates for remediating contaminated groundwater at complex sites.


The algorithm implementation, verification, and effectiveness testing was conducted using groundwater conditions at the Umatilla Chemical Depot in Umatilla, Oregon, as a case study. This site was the subject of a government-sponsored remedial optimization study. Our methodology identified the optimal solution 40 times faster than other methods, did not fail to perform when the physics-based models failed to converge, and did not require human intervention during the solution search, in contrast to the other methods. The integration of the PBMO and Lipschitz Global Optimization (LGO) methods with standalone physically based models provides an approach that is applicable to a wide range of hydrogeological flow and transport settings.


The global optimization based solutions obtained from this study were similar to those found by others, providing method verification. Automation of the optimal search strategy combined with the reliability to overcome inherent difficulties of non-convergence when using physics models in optimization promotes its usefulness. The application of our methodology to the Umatilla case study site represents a rigorous testing of our optimization methodology for handling groundwater remediation problems.

Groundwater modeling; Contamination; Remediation; Optimization