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J Contam Hydrol. 2005 Oct;79(3-4):165-86. Epub 2005 Aug 11.

Two-dimensional distribution of microbial activity and flow patterns within naturally fractured chalk.

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Department of Environmental Hydrology and Microbiology, Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research, Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Sede-Boqer Campus 84990, Israel.


The two-dimensional distribution of flow patterns and their dynamic change due to microbial activity were investigated in naturally fractured chalk cores. Long-term biodegradation experiments were conducted in two cores ( approximately 20 cm diameter, 31 and 44 cm long), intersected by a natural fracture. 2,4,6-tribromophenol (TBP) was used as a model contaminant and as the sole carbon source for aerobic microbial activity. The transmissivity of the fractures was continuously reduced due to biomass accumulation in the fracture concurrent with TBP biodegradation. From multi-tracer experiments conducted prior to and following the microbial activity, it was found that biomass accumulation causes redistribution of the preferential flow channels. Zones of slow flow near the fracture inlet were clogged, thus further diverting the flow through zones of fast flow, which were also partially clogged. Quantitative evaluation of biodegradation and bacterial counts supported the results of the multi-tracer tests, indicating that most of the bacterial activity occurs close to the inlet. The changing flow patterns, which control the nutrient supply, resulted in variations in the concentrations of the chemical constituents (TBP, bromide and oxygen), used as indicators of biodegradation.

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