Activated Carbon-Based Technology for In Situ Subsurface Remediation

The U.S. EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation recently published a fact sheet about an emerging remedial technology that applies a combination of activated carbon (AC) and chemical and/or biological amendments for in situ remediation of soil and groundwater contaminated by organic contaminants, primarily petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents.  The technology typically is designed to carry out two contaminant removal processes: adsorption by AC and destruction by chemical and/or biological amendments.

With the development of several commercially available AC-based products, this remedial technology has been applied with increasing frequency at contaminated sites across the country, including numerous leaking underground storage tank (LUST) and dry cleaner sites (Simon 2015).  It also has been recently applied at several Superfund sites, and federal facility sites that are not on the National Priorities List.

The fact sheet provides information to practitioners and regulators for a better understanding of the science and current practice of AC-based remedial technologies for in situ applications. The uncertainties associated with the applications and performance of the technology also are discussed.

AC-based technology applies a composite or mixture of AC and chemical and/or biological amendments that commonly are used in a range of in situ treatment technologies.  Presently, five commercial AC-based products have been applied for in situ subsurface remediation in the U.S.: BOS-100® & 200® (RPI), COGAC® (Remington Technologies), and PlumeStop® (Regenesis) are the four most commonly used commercial products.  CAT-100® from RPI is the most recent product, developed based on BOS-100®.  One research group in Germany also developed a product called Carbo-Iron®.  The AC components of these products typically are acquired from specialized AC manufacturers.  These types of AC have desired adsorption properties for chlorinated solvents and petroleum hydrocarbons.  Different products also have different AC particle sizes, which determine the suitable injection approach and the applicable range of geological settings.

Example of powdered activated carbon “fracked” into the subsurface under high-pressure, causing preferential pathways into existing monitoring wells (Photo Credit: Regenesis)