U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 90 (2007) 1–20.


Organic mulch is a complex organic material that is typically populated with its own consortium of microorganisms. The organisms in mulch breakdown complex organics to soluble carbon, which can then be used by these and other microorganisms as an electron donor for treating RDX and HMX via reductive pathways. A bench-scale treatability study with organic mulch was conducted for the treatment of RDX- and HMX-contaminated groundwater obtained from a plume at the Pueblo Chemical Depot (PCD) in Pueblo, Colorado. The site-specific cleanup criteria of 0.55 ppb RDX and 602 ppb HMX were used as the logical goals of the study. Column flow-through tests were run to steady-state at the average site seepage velocity, using a 70%:30% (vol.:vol.) mulch:pea gravel packing to approach the formation's permeability. Significant results included: (1) Complete removal of 90 ppb influent RDX and 8 ppb influent HMX in steady-state mulch column effluent; (2) pseudo-first-order steady-state kinetic rate constant, k, of 0.20 to 0.27 h-1 based on RDX data, using triplicate parallel column runs; (3) accumulation of reduced RDX intermediates in the steady-state column effluent at less than 2% of the influent RDX mass; (4) no binding of RDX to the column fill material; and (5) no leaching of RDX, HMX or reduction intermediates from the column fill material. The results of the bench-scale study will be used to design and implement a pilot-scale organic mulch/pea gravel permeable reactive barrier (PRB) at the site.