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Research Approach To Teaching Groundwater Biodegradation In Karst Aquifers

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1083.1 - 11.1083.12



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Paper Authors


Lashun King Tennessee State University

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Graduate Research Assistant, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Tennessee State University,

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Thomas Byl U.S. Geological Survey

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Research Biologist, U.S. Geological Survey,640 Grassmere Park, Suite 100,Nashville, TN 37211 (

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Roger Painter Tennessee State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Research-enhanced Approach to Teaching Groundwater Biodegradation in Karst Aquifers

Abstract – TSU in partnership with the USGS has conducted extensive research regarding biodegradation of contaminants in karst aquifers. This research resulted in the development of a numerical approach to modeling biodegradation of contaminants in karst aquifers that is taught to environmental engineering students in several steps. First, environmental engineering students are taught chemical-reaction engineering principles relating to a wide variety of environmental fate and transport issues. Second, as part of TSU’s engineering course curriculum, students use a non-ideal flow laboratory reactor system and run a tracer study to establish residence time distribution (RTD). Next, the students couple that formula to a first-order biodegradation rate and predict the removal of a biodegradable contaminant as a function of residence time. Following this, students are shown data collected from karst bedrock wells that suggest that karst aquifers are analogous to non-ideal flow reactors. The students are challenged to develop rates of biodegradation through lab studies and use their results to predict biodegradaton at an actual contaminated karst site. Field studies are also conducted to determine the accuracy of the students’ predictions. This academic approach teaches biodegradation processes, rate-kinetic processes, hydraulic processes and numerical principles. The students are able to experience how chemical engineering principles can be applied to other situations, such as, modeling biodegradation of contaminants in karst aquifers. This paper provides background on the chemical engineering principles and karst issues used in the research-enhanced curriculum.


The Environmental Engineering program at Tennessee State University (TSU) has a strong research component for undergraduate and Masters students. Over the years, the research program has been enhanced through partnering with various government agencies. The program has a unique linkage to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE). USGS employees teach graduate courses at TSU in applied microbiology, environmental chemistry and supervise research efforts of undergraduate/graduate students. This partnership between USGS, the COE and TSU provides TSU students with opportunities and access to resources and expertise above and beyond what is available solely through the university. The partnership provides real-world problems that students address. For example, TSU in partnership with the USGS has been tasked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to assist in remediating 50 plus years of jet fuel spills at Ft. Campbell Army Airfield (CAAF), Kentucky Research currently underway at TSU focuses mainly on issues regarding biodegradation in karst aquifers. TSU Environmental Engineering students at the graduate and undergraduate level have played a major role in advancing the Corp’s mission for Ft. Campbell. Environmental Engineering students are required to travel to the Ft. Campbell site and participate in field activities. USGS experts and TSU faculty use these field excursions as opportunities to describe groundwater flow in terms of major hydrologic features such as karst springs, sinkholes, caves and conduits. These hydrogeologic features make karst aquifers one of the most complex and difficult to work with. The principle investigators at TSU and USGS have gotten around these difficulties by applying a chemical engineering approach referred to as residence time

King, L., & Byl, T., & Painter, R. (2006, June), Research Approach To Teaching Groundwater Biodegradation In Karst Aquifers Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--953

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