Predictive methods for contaminant release from virgin and secondary road construction materials are important for evaluating potential long-term soil and groundwater contamination from highways. The objective of this research was to describe the field hydrology in a highway embankment and to investigate leaching under unsaturated conditions by use of a contaminant fate and transport model. The HYDRUS2D code was used to solve the Richards equation and the advection–dispersion equation with retardation. Water flow in a Minnesota highway embankment was successfully modeled in one dimension for several rain events after Bayesian calibration of the hydraulic parameters against water content data at a point 0.32 m from the surface of the embankment. The hypothetical leaching of Cadmium from coal fly ash was probabilistically simulated in a scenario where the top 0.50 m of the embankment was replaced by coal fly ash. Simulation results were compared to the percolation equation method where the solubility is multiplied by the liquid-to-solid ratio to estimate total release. If a low solubility value is used for Cadmium, the release estimates obtained using the percolation/equilibrium model are close to those predicted from HYDRUS2D simulations (10–4–10–2 mg Cd/kg ash). If high solubility is used, the percolation equation over predicts the actual release (0.1–1.0 mg Cd/kg ash). At the 90th percentile of uncertainty, the 10-year liquid-to-solid ratio for the coal fly ash embankment was 9.48 L/kg, and the fraction of precipitation that infiltrated the coal fly ash embankment was 92%. Probabilistic modeling with HYDRUS2D appears to be a promising realistic approach to predicting field hydrology and subsequent leaching in embankments.


Civil Engineering

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Environmental Engineering Science


Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

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This is a copy of an article published in Environmental Engineering Science ©2005 copyright Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.; Environmental Engineering Science is available online at: http://online.liebertpub.com.