Simultaneous identification of the pollutant release history and the source location in groundwater by means of a geostatistical approach

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Abstract

This paper describes an innovative procedure that is able to simultaneously identify the release history and the source location of a pollutant injection in a groundwater aquifer (simultaneous release function and source location identification, SRSI). The methodology follows a geostatistical approach: it develops starting from a data set and a reliable numerical flow and transport model of the aquifer. Observations can be concentration data detected at a given time in multiple locations or a time series of concentration measurements collected at multiple locations. The methodology requires a preliminary delineation of a probably source area and results in the identification of both the sub-area where the pollutant injection has most likely originated, and in the contaminant release history. Some weak hypotheses have to be defined about the statistical structure of the unknown release function such as the probability density function and correlation structure. Three case studies are discussed concerning two-dimensional, confined aquifers with strongly non-uniform flow fields. A transfer function approach has been adopted for the numerical definition of the sensitivity matrix and the recent step input function procedure has been successfully applied.