Electrical resistance heating (ERH) is proving to be an effective technology to rapidly heat the subsurface and, in doing so, removing volatile organic compounds. Practitioners of this technology have observed that other processes (biodegradation, abiotic degradation, hydrolysis, and possibly others) occur to break down the chemicals of concern, and remediation is not solely accomplished through vaporization. Few sites treated using ERH have been monitored during and after treatment to identify and evaluate the processes occurring and assess the contribution of these other biological and chemical processes in the remediation effort so that they may be incorporated in the remediation design. At Fort Lewis, Washington, a landfill has been undergoing ERH treatment in three phases, where chlorinated volatile organic compounds represent the primary chemicals of concern in soiland groundwater. Other chemicals of concern include petroleum products, oils, and lubricants.
The Fort Lewis remediation projects provided an opportunity to observe the reactions occurring in the subsurface during ERH and fine-tune the study with each phase of operation. This study is still under way. However, the data gathered to date, which focuses on biodegradation, provides insights into the processes that have been observed. For the Fort Lewis site, biotic and abiotic degradation processes have been observed throughout the range of operating temperatures. At the lower temperature ranges (up to 70◦C), biological processes appear to predominate. Above 70◦C, abiotic processes become much more active. The goal of this work is to eventually optimize the use of these intrinsic processes in ERH remediation to reduce energy requirements and costs.