Particle transport in unsaturated fractured chalk under arid conditions

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54 Scopus citations


A series of field and laboratory experiments were conducted to study the mechanisms of particle detachment and transport from fractures in vadose chalk. Experiments of intermittent flow events along fracture surfaces were carried out in the laboratory. In the field, water was percolated from land surface via a discrete fracture into a compartmental sampler installed inside a horizontal corehole located 1 m below the surface. The mass, size distribution, and composition of the particles drained from the fracture voids were examined along with flow rates and salt dissolution. Two boreholes penetrating the underlying saturated zone were sampled and analyzed for colloidal concentration and composition.Most of the particle and solute release at the drained effluents occurred during the first several hours of flow, but erratic pulses of particles were still observed after long periods of time. Most of the detached particles had a mean diameter of >2 μm, while the mobile colloidal phase in the groundwater had a mean diameter of ∼1 μm. Mineralogical composition of the groundwater colloids and the particles detached from the upper vadose fracture were similar. Laboratory observations demonstrated the importance of the existence of a coating layer, made of weathered particles and salts, on particle detachment. The results of this study suggest that: (1) particle detachment causes flow-rate variability in the unsaturated fracture; (2) the mechanisms of particle detachment and salt dissolution within the fracture are linked; and (3) although most of the detached particles are large and likely to accumulate inside fractures, some colloidal particles also eroded from the fracture void and are likely to be transported to the groundwater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 27 Apr 2002


  • Arid zone
  • Colloids
  • Contaminant transport
  • Fractures
  • Particles
  • Vadose zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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