Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Numerical simulation of pollutant transport in soils surrounding subway infrastructure


With continued urbanization, public transport infrastructure, e.g., subways, is expected to be built in historically industrial areas. To minimize the transfer of volatile organic compounds and metalloids like arsenic from industrial areas into subway environments and reduce their impact on public health, the transport of pollutants in soil was simulated in this study. During numerical simulations of a contaminated site, the pollutant (arsenic) was transported from layers of higher to lower concentration, and concentration changes were particularly evident in the early simulation stages. The pollutant was transported in soil along the direction of groundwater flow and spread from the center to the periphery of the contaminated zone without inputs from pollution sources. After approximately 400 days, the concentration of all layers became uniform, with slow decreases occurring over time. The pollutant supply rate had a major influence on the pollutant diffusion distance. When other conditions were kept constant, higher supply rates resulted in longer diffusion distances. The simulation results show that a diaphragm wall of a certain depth can effectively control the diffusion of pollutants in soil. These results can be used to improve environmental assessments and remediation efforts and inform engineering decisions during the construction of urban infrastructure at sites affected by historical pollution.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


v i :

Seepage velocity [m/d]

a L :

Longitudinal dispersivity [m]

a T :

Transverse dispersivity [m]

H :

Hydraulic head [m]

D * :

Effective molecular diffusion coefficient [m2/d]

Θ :

Porosity of the subsurface medium

V i V j V k :

Components of the velocity vector along the i, j, and k axes [m/d]

Χ i Χ j :

Distance along the respective Cartesian coordinate axis [m]

D ii D ij :

Hydrodynamic dispersion coefficient tensor [m2/d]

S :

Sorbed concentration [kg/kg]

a :

Freundlich exponent, dimensionless

kf :

Freundlich constant [(m3/kg)a]

R :

Retardation factor, dimensionless

Ρ b :

Bulk density of the subsurface medium [kg/m3]

λ :

First-order reaction rate [1/d]

C S :

Concentration of the source or sink flux for various species [kg/m3]

q S :

Volumetric flow rate per unit volume of the aquifer [m3/d]

Ki :

Principal component of the hydraulic conductivity tensor [m/d]


  1. Abilev M, Kenessov B, Alimzhanova M et al (2012) Transformation products of 1,1-dimethylhydrazine and their distribution in soils of fall places of rocket carriers in Central Kazakhstan. Sci Total Environ 427-428(15):78–85

  2. Alshawabkeh, Akram N. Rahbar, Nima, et al. (2004) Volume change effects on solute transport in clay under consolidation. Geotechnical Practice Publication, Geo Jordan 2004—advances in geotechnical engineering with emphasis on dams, highway materials, and soil improvement: proceedings of the conference 1: 105–115

  3. Arega F, Hayte E (2008) Coupled consolidation and contaminant transport model for simulating migration of contaminants through the sediment and a cap. Appl Math Model 32(11):2413–2428.

  4. Bartsev SI, Pochekutov AA (2015) A continual model of soil organic matter transformations based on a scale of transformation rate. Ecol Model 302:25–28.

  5. Cuevas J, Ruiz AI, de Soto IS et al (2012) The performance of natural clay as a barrier to the diffusion of municipal solid waste landfill leachates. Journal of Environmental Management 95(95 Suppl):S175

  6. DB11/T 811-2011 Screening levels for soil environmental risk assessment of sites

  7. Diallo TMO, Collignan B, Allard F (2015) 2D semi-empirical models for predicting the entry of soil gas pollutants into buildings. Build Environ 85:1–16.

  8. Fox PJ (2003) Numerical model for contaminant transport in consolidating sediments. ASTM Spec Techn Publ 1442:266–281

  9. GB/T14848–93 (n.d.) Quality standard for ground water

  10. GWI-D1 (n.d.) Technical requirements for groundwater numerical simulation

  11. He R, Su Y, Kong JY (2015) Characterization of trichloroethylene adsorption onto waste biocover soil in the presence of landfill gas. J Hazard Mater 295:185–192.

  12. Lewis J, Sjöstrom J (2010) Optimizing the experimental design of soil columns in saturated and unsaturated transport experiments. J Contam Hydrol 115(1–4):1–13

  13. Liu X, Liang B, Xue Q (2003) Study on kinetic model of organic pollutants migrating and transforming in the environment of groundwater. Geotech Investig Surv 1:24–28

  14. Oburger E, Leitner D, Jones DL, Zygalakis KC, Schnepf A, Roose T (2011) Adsorption and desorption dynamics of citric acid anions in soil. Eur J Soil Sci 62(5):733–742.

  15. Olson MR, Sale TC (2015) Implications of soil mixing for NAPL source zone remediation: column studies and modeling of field-scale systems. J Contam Hydrol 177–178:206–219

  16. Pan F, Ma J, Wang Y, Zhang Y, Chen L, Edmunds WM (2013) Simulation of the migration and transformation of petroleum pollutants in the soils of the Loess plateau: a case study in the maling oil field of Northwestern China. Environ Monit Assess 185(10):8023–8034.

  17. Regadío M, Ruiz AI, Soto ISD, Rastrero MR, Sánchez N, Gismera MJ et al (2012) Pollution profiles and physicochemical parameters in old uncontrolled landfills. Waste Manag 32(3):482–497.

  18. Ruiz AI, Fernández R, Jiménez NS, Rastrero MR, Regadío M, Soto ISD et al (2012) Improvement of attenuation functions of a clayey sandstone for landfill leachate containment by bentonite addition. Sci Total Environ 419(419):81–89.

  19. Şengör SS, Ünlü K (2013) Modeling contaminant transport and remediation at an acrylonitrile spill site in Turkey. J Contam Hydrol 150:77–92.

  20. Shaker MA, Albishri HM (2014) Dynamics and thermodynamics of toxic metals adsorption onto soil-extracted humic acid. Chemosphere 111:587–595.

  21. Smith DW (2004) One-dimensional contaminant transport through a deforming porous medium:theory and a solution for a quasi -steady-state problem. Int J Numer Anal Methods Geomech 24(8):693–722

  22. Tompson AFB, Gelhar LW (1990) Numerical simulation of solute transport in three-dimensional, randomly heterogeneous porous media. Water Resour Res 26(10):2541–2562.

  23. Wang Q (2008) Adsorption-desorption behaviors of As and Cu in soil and their influencing factors. Nangjing Forestry University, Nangjing

  24. Wang S, Wu W, Liu F, Yin S, Bao Z, Liu H (2015a) Spatial distribution and migration of nonylphenol in groundwater following long-term wastewater irrigation. J Contam Hydrol 177–178:85–92.

  25. Wang X, Zhang K, Li Y (2015b) Numerical simulation study on seepage and pollutant migration model of fractured rock mass. J Beijing Normal Univ (Nat Sci) 5:527–532

  26. Wen B, Zhang H, Li L, Hu X, Liu Y, Shan XQ, Zhang S (2015) Bioavailability of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in biosolids-amended soils to, earthworms (Eisenia fetida). Chemosphere 118(1):361–366.

  27. Yi L, Xu H (2009) Numerical simulation of groundwater: GMS application and examples, 1st edn. Chemical Industry Press, Beijing

  28. Yu Q, Hou H, Lu L et al (2010) Industrial enterprise relocation and their implications to contaminated site management—Beijing and Chongqing case study. Urban Stud 11:95–100

  29. Yu L, Cao G, Xu M et al (2014) Application of centrifuges in experimental studies of contaminant transport. Adv Earth Science 29(2):227–237

  30. Zhang L (2014) Influence of plant root exudates on cadmiun adsorption by soil. J Investig Med 62(8):S89–S89

  31. Zhang G, Liu T, Jiang H (2011) Approaches of layers interpolation and correction in solids modeling base on GMS. Ground Water 04:184–186

  32. Zhang J, Yang J, Wang R et al (2013) Effects of pollution sources and soil properties on distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and risk assessment. Sci Total Environ 463-464:1–10.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Cuihong Zhou.

Additional information

Responsible editor: Marcus Schulz

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhou, C., Liu, C., Liang, J. et al. Numerical simulation of pollutant transport in soils surrounding subway infrastructure. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 6859–6869 (2018).

Download citation


  • Pollutant transport
  • Numerical simulation
  • Orthogonal experiment
  • Diaphragm wall
  • Transportation infrastructure
  • Modeling