Hydrologic Analysis of a Poplar-Based Phytoremediation System

Project Summary

Research Advisor(s):  Alan Rabideau (Environmental Engineering) 

Project Theme:  Environmental Remediation

Hydrologic and groundwater modeling tools will be used to investigate the impact of a newly installed poplar-based phytoremediation system on the discharge of groundwater to a small, first-order stream in western New York. At the study site, the presence of low levels of chlorinated solvents in the shallow groundwater has the potential to adversely affect a nearby trout fishing creek. To address this possibility, a phytoremediation barrier consisting of several hundred hybrid poplar trees was recently installed to influence the impacted groundwater and protect the stream. To understand the effect of the phytoremediation system on the site ecohydrology, REU student(s) will refine and apply modeling tools to determine the groundwater discharge to the stream, evaluate the influence of the poplar system on the site water budget, and support a detailed analysis of seasonal and diurnal variations in phytoremediation processes.  Although most tasks will involve computer modeling, approximately weekly field investigations will be conducted to obtain data for model parameterization. A recently added project will involve the use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) software to compare the environmental, water, and energy "footprints" of the poplar system with similar aspects of conventional groundwater remediation technologies

Primary Activities:  Groundwater modeling; data analysis; field work

Skills/Courses Recommended:  Basic knowledge of stream and groundwater processes; interest in groundwater modeling; ability to participate in field work

Anticipated Conference Participation:  American Geophysical Union; Great Lakes Research Consortium