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Digital-transport model study of Diisopropylmethylphosphonate (DIMP) ground-water contamination at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Colorado

January 1, 1994

Diisopropylmethylphosphonate (DIMP) is an organic compound produced as a by-product of the manufacture and detoxification of GB nerve gas. Ground-water contamination by DIMP from the disposal of wastes into unlined surface ponds at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal occurred from 1952 to 1956. A digital-transport model was used to determine the effects on ground-water movement and on DIMP concentrations in the ground water of a bentonite barrier in the aquifer near the northern boundary of the arsenal. The transport model is based on an iterative-alternating-direction-implicit mathematical solution of the ground-water-flow equation coupled with a method-of-characteristics solution of the solute-transport equation. The model assumes conservative (nonreactive) transient transport of DIMP and steady-state ground-water flow. In the model simulations, a bentonite barrier was assumed that was impermeable and penetrated the entire saturated thickness of the aquifer. Ground water intercepted by the barrier was assumed to be pumped by wells located south (upgradient) of the barrier, to be treated to remove DIMP, and to be recharged by pits or wells to the aquifer north (downgradient) of the barrier. The amount of DIMP transported across the northern boundary of the arsenal was substantially reduced by a ground-water-barrier system of this type. For a 1,500-foot-long bentonite barrier located along the northern boundary of the arsenal near D Street, about 50 percent of the DIMP that would otherwise cross the boundary would be intercepted by the barrier. This barrier configuration and location were proposed by the U.S. Army. Of the ground water with DIMP concentrations greater than 500 micrograms per liter, the safe DIMP-concentration level determined by the U.S. Army, about 72 percent would be intercepted by the barrier system. The amount of DIMP underflow intercepted may be increased to 65 percent by doubling the pumpage, or to 73 percent by doubling the length of the barrier. (Kosco-USGS)