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Fate and Transport of Contaminants in the Subsurface

Markus Flury
Fate and Transport of Contaminants in the Subsurface

Markus FlurryCredit: WSU Office of Research

Waste from nuclear facilities is often stored and deposited in shallow subsurface repositories. When waste materials leak from such repositories, contaminants move downward through the unsaturated soils and sediments. Driven by gravity, contaminants can ultimately reach the groundwater, causing pollution of drinking water resources. Clean-up and management of nuclear waste sites requires a sound understanding of subsurface fate and transport of contaminants. Of particular concern are colloidal particles, small particles that can be suspended in the pore water, because such particles can accelerate the migration of contaminants.

With a team of researchers from the Universities of Delaware and Tennessee, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Dr. Flury and his colleague Dr. James Harsh are investigating the role of colloidal particles in the transport of the radionuclide cesium-137, a major contaminant at United States Department of Energy’s nuclear facilities. FluryDela


Specific research objectives

  • Characterization and identification of mobile colloidal particles in subsurface media.
  • Determination of interaction between colloidal particles and contaminants.
  • Identification of transport mechanisms for colloidal particles and contaminants in the subsurface.
  • Development of mathematical models to predict the behavior of colloids and contaminants in the subsurface.

The outcomes of this research will lead to a better fundamental understanding of subsurface flow and transport mechanisms, and will provide the scientific basis for assessment, remediation, and long-term management of nuclear waste facilities.

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Contact Information
Markus Flury, Ph.D.
Professor / Scientist
Crop and Soil Sciences

Puyallup Research & Extension Center
2606 West Pioneer
Puyallup WA 98371-4922 USA

Telephone: 253-445-4522

Markus FluryDr. Markus Flury received his M.S. in geosciences from the University of Zurich (1989), Switzerland, and his Ph.D. in environmental and natural sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH (1993). He received the ETH silver medal for his dissertation. After one year of postdoctoral training at ETH, Dr. Flury continued his postdoctoral experience at the University of California at Riverside. Dr. Flury joined Washington State University as assistant professor of soil physics in fall 1997, and was promoted to  professor in 2006. His research focuses on the physics of water flow and contaminant transport in soils and porous media. Dr. Flury is associate editor of the Vadose Zone Journal.