U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



Published in Chemosphere 75 (2009) 1074–1081.


Live-fire military training can deposit millimeter-sized particles of high explosives (HE) on surface soils when rounds do not explode as intended. Rainfall-driven dissolution of the particles then begins a process whereby aqueous HE solutions can enter the soil and groundwater as contaminants. We dripped water onto individual particles of TNT, Tritonal, Comp B and Octol to simulate how surface-deposited HE particles might dissolve under the action of rainfall and to use the data to verify a model that predicts HE dissolution as a function of particle size, particle composition and rainfall rate. Particle masses ranged from 1.1 to 17 mg and drip rates corresponded to nominal rainfall rates of 6 and 12 mm h-1. For the TNT and Tritonal particles, TNT solubility governed dissolution time scales, whereas the lower-solubility of RDX controlled the dissolution time of both RDX and TNT in Comp B. The large, low-solubility crystals of HMX slowed but did not control the dissolution of TNT in Octol. Predictions from a drop-impingement dissolution model agree well with dissolved-mass timeseries for TNT, Tritonal and Comp B, providing some confidence that the model will also work well when applied to the rainfall-driven, outdoor dissolution of these HE particles.