Modeling of simultaneous exchange of colloids and sorbing contaminants between streams and streambeds

Jianhong Ren*, Aaron I. Packman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Contaminant transport in streams can be significantly modified by both stream-subsurface exchange and the presence of colloidal particles, but the interaction of these effects is not well understood. Exchange with the hyporheic zone exposes contaminants to surface-chemical reactions with streambed sediments, while colloidal particles have a large reactive surface area that allows them to carry pollutants that would otherwise be transported primarily as dissolved species. A new theoretical model is developed to predict the role of colloids in mediating advective contaminant exchange between streams and streambeds. Bedform-induced pumping theory is applied to model physical transport, and colloid filtration and reversible contaminant sorption are used to calculate the local distributions of colloids and contaminants within the streambed. Residence time functions of both colloids and contaminants in the bed are then used to link contaminant concentrations in the pore water and streamwater. Model simulations indicate that, under conditions of low colloid filtration and strong contaminant sorption to colloids, contaminants are mobilized by colloids and there is less retention of contaminants in the streambed. This is the case of "colloid-facilitated contaminant transport" commonly considered in groundwater transport. On the other hand, when colloid filtration is high and contaminants still sorb strongly to colloids, contaminant mobility decreases and there is greater contaminant retention in the streambed. We term this case "colloid-impeded contaminant transport". Thus, we find that a variety of contaminant transport behavior can occur depending on the concentration and mobility of suspended particles in the system and the relative affinity of contaminants for colloids and other solid phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2901-2911
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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