Contamination of groundwater by petroleum-hydrocarbons is a serious environmental problem. The Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) approach is a passive remediation to degrade and dissipate groundwater contaminants in situ. In this study, a full-scale natural bioremediation investigation was conducted at a gasoline spill site. Results show that concentrations of major contaminants (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) dropped to below detection limit before they reached the downgradient monitor well located 280 m from the spill location. The results also reveal that natural biodegradation was the major cause of the observed contaminant reduction. The calculated natural first-order attenuation rates for BTEX and 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene (1,2,4-TMB) ranged from 0.051 (benzene) to 0.189 1/day (1,2,4-TMB). Evidence for the occurrence of natural attenuation includes the following: (1) depletion of dissolved oxygen, nitrate, and sulfate; (2) production of dissolved ferrous iron, sulfide, and CO2; (3) decreased BTEX concentrations and BTEX as carbon to TOC ratio along the transport path; (4) increased alkalinity and microbial populations; (5) limited spreading of the BTEX plume; and (6) preferential removal of certain BTEX components along the transport path. Additionally, the biodegradation capacity (44.73 mg/L) for BTEX and 1,2,4-TMB was much higher than other detected contaminants within the plume. Hence, natural attenuation can effectively contain the plume, and biodegradation processes played an important role in contaminant removal.

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