Water Center, The


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Environmental Quality 33:2165–2173 (2004). Copyright © 2004 M. L. Adam, S. D. Comfort, M. C. Morley, and D. D. Snow.


Ground water beneath the U.S. Department of Energy Pantex Plant is contaminated with the high explosive RDX (hexahydro-1,3,5- trinitro-1,3,5 triazine). The USDOE Innovative Treatment and Remediation Demonstration (ITRD) program identified in situ oxidation by permanganate as a technology fit for further investigation. We evaluated the efficacy of KMnO4 to transform and mineralize RDX by determining degradation kinetics and carbon mass balances using 14C-RDX. Aqueous RDX solutions (2–5 mg L–1) and RDX-contaminated slurries (50% solids, w/v) were treated with KMnO4 at 1000, 2000, 4000, and 20,000 mg L–1. Treating an aqueous RDX solution of 2.8 mg L–1 with 20,000 mg KMnO4 L–1 decreased RDX to 0.1 mg L–1 within 11 d while cumulative mineralization proceeded for 14 d until 87% of the labeled carbon was trapped as 14CO2. Similar cumulative mineralization was obtained when Pantex aquifer material was included in the solution matrix. Other experiments using 4000 mg KMnO4 L–1 showed that initial RDX concentrations (1.3–10.4 mg L–1) or initial pH (4–11) had little effect on reaction rates. Attempts to identify RDX degradates and reaction products showed that N2O was a product of permanganate oxidation and constituted 20 to 30% of the N balance. Time-course measurements of a 14C-RDX solution treated with KMnO4 revealed few 14C-labeled degradates but through liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC–MS) analysis, we present evidence that 4-nitro-2,4-diazabutanol is formed. Aquifer microcosm studies confirmed that the transformation products not mineralized by KMnO4 were much more biodegradable than parent RDX. These results indicate permanganate can effectively transform and mineralize RDX in the presence of aquifer material and support its use as an in situ chemical oxidation treatment for the Pantex perched aquifer.