The long-term performance of rapid infiltration basin systems (RIBS) and their potential impacts on the receiving environment have been previously unknown for Delaware. A variety of field experiments were conducted to characterize the geology and hydrogeology of a RIBS facility that has been in operation for more than 20 years at Cape Henlopen State Park. Pairs of standard monitoring wells and short-screened multi-level wells were used to evaluate the significance of small-scale vertical variability in water quality. A three-dimensional transient groundwater flow and contaminant transport model was constructed to simulate the groundwater mounding and the movements of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3--N) and orthophosphorus (OP) in the groundwater. In the numerical model, NO3--N was treated as a reactive species and denitrification was simulated with a first-order degradation rate constant. The major mechanism affecting OP transport in groundwater is sorption/desorption, which was simulated using a linear sorption isotherm. Simulated concentrations reasonably fit observed concentrations of NO3--N and OP in both standard wells and multi-level wells. The calibrated model predicts that with a denitrification rate of 0.006/day and a distribution coefficient of 4×10-7 L/mg, 63 percent of the reduction in the mass of NO3--N is attributable to denitrification, and more than 99 percent of OP is detained in the aquifer due to sorption on subsurface solids. However, the long-term operation of RIBS has led to a reduction of the sorption capacity of subsurface solids for phosphorous, resulting in significant concentrations of OP in groundwater adjacent to RIBS.
Downloads and Data