Containment of groundwater contamination plumes: minimizing drawdown by aligning capture wells parallel to regional flow
Pump-and-treat systems that are installed to contain contaminated groundwater migration typically involve placement of extraction wells perpendicular to the regional groundwater flow direction at the down gradient edge of a contaminant plume. These wells capture contaminated water for above ground treatment and disposal, thereby preventing further migration of contaminated water down gradient. In this work, examining two-, three-, and four-well systems, we compare well configurations that are parallel and perpendicular to the regional groundwater flow direction. We show that orienting extraction wells co-linearly, parallel to regional flow, results in (1) a larger area of aquifer influenced by the wells at a given total well flow rate, (2) a center and ultimate capture zone width equal to the perpendicular configuration, and (3) more flexibility with regard to minimizing drawdown. Although not suited for some scenarios, we found orienting extraction wells parallel to regional flow along a plume centerline, when compared to a perpendicular configuration, reduces drawdown by up to 7% and minimizes the fraction of uncontaminated water captured.