Soil flushing: a review of the origin of efficiency variability

  • O. Atteia
  • E. Del Campo Estrada
  • H. Bertin
Review paper


Soil flushing using aqueous solutions is employed to solubilise contaminants. As water solubility is the controlling mechanism of dissolution, additives (surfactants, cosolvents, etc.) are used to enhance efficiencies and reduce the treatment time compared to the use of water alone. The use of surfactant alone gives efficiencies of about 80–85 % in laboratory experiments, but the amounts of product to be injected are very important, which does not seem to be economically sustainable. Studies indicate that when soil flushing is applied in the field, efficiency is very variable; it can vary from almost 0 % to almost 100 %. This illustrates the importance of knowledge of the field (soil heterogeneities, type of contamination, etc.). Using only one product (surfactant, cosolvent, cyclodextrin) often gives moderate efficiencies and needs very large amounts of products, with a product:pollutant ratio higher than 100:1. On the other hand, the use of more complex methods involving micro emulsions or several products with polymer injection lead to high efficiencies at first and a product:pollutant ratio that can be lower than 5. The importance of the initial saturation of the non-aqueous phase liquid is highlighted: the higher the initial saturation, the higher the efficiency. For initial saturations lower than 1 %, soil flushing may not be a very efficient technique. This paper provides an overview of recent studies in the area of soil and groundwater remediation, from laboratory columns scale to pilot and real sites. The research has focused on chlorinated solvents as they are extremely difficult to treat.


Soil flushing NAPL Chlorinated solvents Surfactant 



Non aqueous phase liquid


Polyaromatic hydrocarbons





Tween® 80

Polyoxyethylene (20) sorbitan monooleate


Sodium dihexyl sulfosuccinate




Secondary alkanesulfonate, anionic


Single phase micro emulsion


Witconol 2722 Polysorbate 80, non-ionic



This research has been funded by the INNOVASOL foundation and the ADEME.


  1. Abriola LM, Drummond CD, Hahn EJ et al (2005) Pilot-scale demonstration of surfactant-enhanced PCE solubilization at the bachman road site. 1. Site characterization and test design. Environ Sci Technol 39:1778–1790CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bettahar M, Ducreux J, Schäfer G et al (1999) Surfactant enhanced in situ remediation of LNAPL contaminated aquifers: large scale studies on a controlled experimental site. Transp Porous Media 37:255–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blanford WJ, Barackrnan ML, Boing TB et al (2001) Cyclodextrin-enhanced vertical flushing of a trichloroethene contaminated aquifer. Groundw Monit Remediat 21:58–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brooks MC, Annable MD, Rao PS et al (2004) Controlled release, blind test of DNAPL remediation by ethanol flushing. J Contam Hydrol 69:281–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chai JL, Gao YH, Zhao KS et al (2005) Studies on the phase properties of Winsor I-III type micro emulsions with dielectric relaxation spectroscopy. Chin Chem Lett 16:1263Google Scholar
  6. Chevalier LR (2003) Surfactant dissolution and mobilization of LNAPL contaminants in aquifers. Environ Monit Assess 84:19–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Childs JD, Acosta E, Knox R et al (2004) Improving the extraction of tetrachloroethylene from soil columns using surfactant gradient systems. J Contam Hydrol 71:27–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Childs J, Acosta E, Annable MD et al (2006) Field demonstration of surfactant-enhanced solubilization of DNAPL at dover air force base, Delaware. J Contam Hydrol 82:1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dwarakanath V, Pope GA (2000) Surfactant phase behavior with field degreasing solvent. Environ Sci Technol 34:4842–4848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elgh-Dalgren K, Arwidsson Z, Camdzija A, Sjöberg R, Ribé V, Waar S, Allard B, von Kronhelm T, van Hees P (2009) Laboratory and pilot scale soil washing of PAH and arsenic from a wood preservation site: changes in concentration and toxicity. J Hazard Mat 172:1033–1040CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Falta RW, Lee CM, Brame SE et al (1999) Field test of high molecular weight alcohol flushing for subsurface nonaqueous phase liquid remediation. Water Resour Res 35:2095–2108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fountain JC, Starr RC, Middleton T et al (1996) A controlled field test of surfactant-enhanced aquifer remediation. Groundw 34:910–916CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Grubb DG, Sitar N (1999) Mobilization of trichloroethene (TCE) during ethanol flooding in uniform and layered sand packs under confined conditions. Water Resour Res 35:3275–3289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hirasaki GJ, Miller CA, Szafranski R, Tanzil D, Lawson JB, Mainardus H, Jin M, Londergan JT, Jackson RE, Pope GA, Wade WH (1997) Field demonstration of the surfactant/foam process for aquifer remediation. SPE annual technical conference San Antonio, Texas, 5–8 Oct 1997Google Scholar
  15. Jawitz JW, Sillan RK, Annable MD et al (2000) In-situ alcohol flushing of a DNAPL source zone at a dry cleaner site. Environ Sci Technol 34:3722–3729CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jawitz JW, Annable MD, Rao PS et al (2001) Evaluation of remediation performance and cost for field scale single-phase micro emulsion (SPME) flushing. J Environ Sci Health Part A Toxic/Hazard Subst Environ Eng 36:1437–1450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jeong S-W, Ju B-K, Lee B-J (2009) Effects of alcohol-partitioning type and airflow on cosolvent flooding to benzene-LNAPL saturated porous media. J Hazard Mater 166:603–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaye AJ, Cho J, Basu NB et al (2008) Laboratory investigation of flux reduction from dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) partial source zone remediation by enhanced dissolution. J Contam Hydrol 102:17–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lee LS, Zhai X, Lee J (2006) INDOT guidance document for in situ soil flushing. Purdue e-Pubs. Accessed 4 March 2013
  20. Londergan JT, Meinardus HW, Mariner PE et al (2001) DNAPL removal from a heterogeneous alluvial aquifer by surfactant-enhanced aquifer remediation. Groundw Monit Remediat 21:57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martel R, Gélinas PJ, Saumure L (1998) Aquifer washing by micellar solutions: 3 field test at the Thouin Sand Pit (L’Assomption, Quebec, Canada). J Contam Hydrol 30:33–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Martel R, Hébert A, Levebvre R et al (2004) Displacement and sweep efficiencies in a DNAPL recovery test using micellar and polymer solutions injected in a five-spot pattern. J Contam Hydrol 75:1–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McCray JE, Brusseau ML (1998) Cyclodextrin-enhanced in situ flushing of multiple-component immiscible organic liquid contamination at the field scale: mass removal effectiveness. Environ Sci Technol 32:1285–1293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCray JE, Tick GR, Jawitz JW et al (2011) Remediation of NAPL source zones: lessons learned from field studies at Hill and Dover AFB. Groundw 49:727–744CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mulligan CN, Eftekhari F (2003) Remediation with surfactant foam of PCP-contaminated soil. Eng Geol 70:269–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mulligan CN, Yong RN, Gibbs BF (2001) Surfactant-enhanced remediation of contaminated soil: a review. Eng Geol 60:371–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Petitgirard A, Djehiche M, Persello J, Fievet P, Fatin-Rouge N (2009) PAH contaminated soil remediation by reusing an aqueous solution of cyclodextrins. Chemosphere 75:714–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ramsburg CA, Pennell KD, Kibbey TC et al (2004) Refinement of the density-modified displacement method for efficient treatment of tetrachloroethene source zones. J Contam Hydrol 74:105–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ramsburg CA, Pennell KD, Abriola LM et al (2005) Pilot-scale demonstration of surfactant-enhanced PCE solubilization at the bachman road site. 2. System operation and evaluation. Environ Sci Technol 39:1791–1801CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Robert T, Martel R, Conrad SH et al (2006) Visualization of TCE recovery mechanisms using surfactant-polymer solutions in a two-dimensional heterogeneous sand model. J Contam Hydrol 86:3–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Roote DS (1998) Technology status report: in situ flushing. Ground Water Remediation Technology Analysis Center (available at
  32. Rosas JM, Vicente F, Santos A, Romero A (2013) Soil remediation using soil washing followed by Fenton oxidation. Chem Eng J 220:125–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rothmel RK, Peters RW, St. Martin E et al (1998) Surfactant foam/bioaugmentation technology for in situ treatment of TCE-DNAPLs. Environ Sci Technol 32:1667–1675CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Roy D, Kommalapati RR, Valsaraj KT et al (1995) Soil flushing of residual transmission fluid: application of colloidal gas aphron suspensions and conventional surfactant solutions. Water Res 29:589–595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sale T, Piontek K, Pitts M (1989) Chemically enhanced in situ soil washing. National Ground Water Association. Accessed 4 March 2013
  36. Sebba F (1971) Microfoams—an unexploited colloid system. J Colloid Interface Sci 35:643–646CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Suchomel EJ, Pennell KD (2006) Reductions in contaminant mass discharge following partial mass removal from DNAPL source zones. Environ Sci Technol 40:6110–6116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Suresh P, Rao C, Annable MD et al (1997) Field-scale evaluation of in situ cosolvent flushing for enhanced aquifer remediation. Water Resour Res 33:2673–2686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zhang C, Werth CJ, Webb AG (2008) Investigation of surfactant-enhanced mass removal and flux reduction in 3D correlated permeability fields using magnetic resonance imaging. J Contam Hydrol 100:116–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ENSEGID, EA 4592PessacFrance
  2. 2.Université de BordeauxTalenceFrance

Personalised recommendations