Using the EXCEL Woburn Flow and Transport Model to Teach Modeling Concepts
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This page first made public: Apr 10, 2006
The Woburn FTM is constructed specifically for the hydrogeologic framework of the Wells G & H Superfund Site in Woburn, Massachusetts, the setting of the famous toxic tort trial described in the book and movie 'A Civil Action.' Woburn FTM uses a modular design similar to MODFLOW and the same mathematical expressions and modeling jargon as MODFLOW. It uses well and river cells and can incorporate spatially variable recharge, hydraulic conductivity, and layer thickness. It uses macros to enter data and pop-up graphs, plots, and contour maps to view input data and simulation results. Woburn FTM simulates three-dimensional steady-state groundwater flow, computes calibration statistics, performs particle tracking, calculates particle travel times, and simulates two-dimensional contaminant transport from one or more sources using the Method of Characteristics.
Data are entered in the Woburn FTM using macros. The numerical solution of heads, particle tracking, and solute transport calculations are also done by macros. To use the Woburn FTM, students need only modify existing values of hydraulic conductivity, aquifer thickness, riverbed permeability, and/or well discharge rates, and then click on the ITERATE button to see graphs, plots, and tables summarizing the results of their simulation pop-up automatically on the linked worksheets. There is an extensive set of HELP screens to assist students in using the worksheets and to describe the geology, hydrology, and usage of wells G and H.
Woburn FTM also could be used in a graduate-level course in numerical modeling to teach the general concepts of flow and transport modeling including iterative methods, water-budget calculations, explicit and implicit numerical solutions, conductance theory, particle tracking, solute transport, and calibration and history matching.
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Description of the activity/assignment
The instructor could show students the large plates included in the USGS report by Myette and others (1987) that display potentiometric data and contours before and after the critically important aquifer test performed in December 1985 and January 1986, just before the trial, and discuss the significance of the stream discharge measurement made by the USGS upstream and downstream of municipal wells G and H to the experts' testimony and the outcome of the trial.
The instructor could also show the animations of TCE movement from 1960 to 1986 from the five known sources of TCE contamination at the Woburn Wells G & H Superfund Site (W.R. Grace, UniFirst dry cleaners, Olympia Trucking, Beatrice Foods, and New England Plastics) and the animation showing temporal changes in induced infiltration from the Aberjona River to wells G and H that were created by Martin van Oort (M.S., 2005) based on the research of Maura Metheny (M.S., 1998; Ph.D., 2004) at Ohio State University.
The article by Bair and Metheny (2002) concerning the remediation activities subsequent to the famous trial at the Wells G & H Superfund Site could be used to show how groundwater contamination is cleaned up, why different remediation schemes needed to be used in different hydrogeologic settings, and why cleanup to U.S. EPA standards can take decades.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment (Excel 13.7MB Aug5 05)
- Instructors Notes (Microsoft Word 26kB Aug5 05)
Anderson, M.A., and W.W. Woessner, 1992. Applied Groundwater Modeling—Simulation of Flow and Advective Transport; Academic Press, Inc., San Diego, California, 391 p.
Bair, E.S., and M.A. Metheny, 2002. Remediation of the Wells G & H Superfund Site, Woburn, Massachusetts, Ground Water, vol. 40, no 6, p. 657-668.
Bair, E.S., 2001, Models in the Courtroom, Chapter 5, in Model Validation, Perspectives in Hydrological Science, M.G. Anderson and P.D. Bates, eds., John W. Wiley & Sons Ltd., West Sussex, England, 57-76.
Harr, J., 1995, "A Civil Action," Random House, New York, 500 p.
M.A. Metheny, 2004, "Evaluation of Groundwater Flow and Contaminant Transport at the Wells G & H Superfund Site, Woburn, Massachusetts, from 1960 to 1986 and Estimation of TCE and PCE Concentrations Delivered to Woburn Residences," Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Geological Sciences, The Ohio State University, 346 pp.
M.A. Metheny, 1998, "Numerical Simulation of Groundwater Flow and Advective Transport at Woburn, Massachusetts, Based on a Sedimentological Model of Glacial and Glaciofluvial Deposition," M.S. thesis, Department of Geological Sciences, The Ohio State University, 197 pp.
Metheny, M.A., and E.S. Bair, 2001. The Science Behind A Civil Action—The Hydrogeology of the Aberjona River, Wetland and Woburn Wells G and H, West, D.P. and R.H. Bailey, eds., in Guidebook for the Geological Field Trips in New England, 2001 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, p. D1-D25, Boston, Massachusetts.
Metheny, M.A., E.S. Bair, and D.K. Solomon, 2001. Applying variable recharge to a 19-year simulation of groundwater flow in Woburn, Massachusetts and comparing model results to 3H/3He ages, Seo, H.S., E. Poeter, C. Zheng, and O. Poeter, eds., in MODFLOW 2001 and Other Modeling Odysseys—Conference Proceedings, vol. 2, p. 783-789, International Ground Water Modeling Center, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado.
Myette, C.F., J.C. Olympio, and D.G. Johnson, 1987, Area of influence and zone of contribution to Superfund-site Wells G and H, Woburn, Massachusetts; U. S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4100, 21 p.