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Numerical modelling of chloride propagation in the quaternary aquifer of the southern Upper Rhine Graben

Abstract : The deep groundwater in the quaternary gravel sequence of the southern Upper Rhine Graben locally contains high chloride concentrations near the river Rhine between Fessenheim (France) in the South and Breisach (Germany) in the North. This historical pollution is mainly due to past infiltration from the former brine storage basins of the French potash mines on the “Fessenheim Island” and—to a lesser extent—from the leaching of the salt dumps of the German potash mines in Buggingen and Heitersheim. The spreading of the salt plume was investigated by means of a groundwater model. The aim of the model was to understand the brine movement, the present distribution of chloride as defined by recent hydrochemical investigations, and to select locations for new reconnaissance boreholes. The geological structure was reproduced by a three layer model, which was calibrated for steady state flow conditions. The hydraulic conductivity of the first layer was determined by comparing measured and calculated heads in the model area. The vertical resolution was refined to simulate the density-dependent salt transport processes. The transport of the salt plumes was simulated over a 40-year period, starting at the beginning of brine storage in the 1950s. The relevant transport parameters have been estimated in a sensitivity analysis, where the simulated breakthrough curves of chloride concentration have been compared with the measured data. The results of the groundwater model indicate that brines containing approximately 1 million tons of chloride are still present at the bottom of the aquifer. These highly concentrated salt brines mix with fresh water from the upper part of the aquifer. This dispersive process leads to the formation of a plume of chloride-rich water extending downstream, where pumping wells for several local water supplies are located
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Soumis le : lundi 29 août 2022 - 16:20:40
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U. Lang, T. Gudera, Pierre Elsass, G. Wirsing. Numerical modelling of chloride propagation in the quaternary aquifer of the southern Upper Rhine Graben. International Journal of Earth Sciences, Springer Verlag, 2005, 94 (4), pp.550-564. ⟨10.1007/s00531-005-0477-0⟩. ⟨hal-03763590⟩

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