Environmental Enlightenment #207
By Ami Adini - January 6, 2014

This is a SHORT, LIGHT and SIMPLE newsletter. Its purpose is to rekindle in the initiated terminology they have once learned, and enlighten the uninitiated on terms they may have heard but never knew the meaning of.

Power of Simplicity
The EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Cleanup Technologies

Series 6: Permeable Reactive Barriers

See our Newsletter, Environmental Enlightenment #200, for introduction to one highly valuable, plainly written series of Citizen’s Guides published by the EPA at http://www.clu-in.org/products/citguide

With this issue we introduce the EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Permeable Reactive Barriers. You can reach it through the hyperlink under the blue header below.


 If you dress in cotton and dance in the rain, it will soak the cotton and pass to the skin. Water permeates cotton. Cotton is permeable to water.

Dance in Rain
Photograph by Daniel Lin, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Permeate originates with Latin; per mean through and meare means to pass.

In broader terms, permeability is the property of a material that allows liquids, vapors or gases to pass through it.

Beach sand is highly permeable. When the waves or tide retreat, they leave no ponds behind: all water has soaked down.

Clays and silts present low permeability. Water will pond until it evaporates.


In chemistry, a reactive substance is a substance that acts chemically on another substance or substances.

Hydrochloric acid is dangerously reactive. It will instantly burn through flesh. (Wear highly protective gear if you plan on working with acids.)

Soaps are mildly reactive. They break oils into particles that become soluble in water and can be rinsed away.


A barrier is something that stands in the way; that stops progress or prevents an approach.
(Ref. The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary.)

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling
Photographer: Jakub Halun, Licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

The word originates with Latin barra, bar. A barrier is an object that bars.

When we speak about permeable barriers, it seems that we have entered a field of oxymorons.

The operative word is reactive.


A permeable reactive barrier, or “PRB,” allows groundwater to flow (permeate) through it. Within the barrier we have reactive materials that trap harmful contaminants or reduce their harm through chemical or biological processes. The treated groundwater flows out the other side of the wall.

The PRB bars the progress of the contaminants and allows the treated groundwater to proceed.

As this letter is being issued, our firm is engaged in the construction of one 1000-foot-long PRB at an abandoned oil refinery site in the city of Signal Hill, California. The reactivity of this barrier will be provided through enhanced metabolic reaction of indigenous (native) bacteria in the subsurface environment. To the technically oriented among us we recommend exploring this project at

  For those who would prefer a simpler, image-rich text we recommend our Newsletter #198 Flow-through Barriers and Newsletter #199 There’s Life in the Pits. They present Subsurface Metabolism Enhancement (SME, pat. #6,464,005), an aerobic, in-situ method of hydrocarbon remediation. SME gently works with the earth and the organisms for total eradication of invasive petroleum products. Treating the subsurface organisms in their habitat as an inclusive, organic eco-system, SME accelerates what the earth with its subsurface dwellers would slowly do on their own.

Go to the EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Permeable Reactive Barriers at http://www.clu-in.org/download/Citizens/a_citizens_guide_to_permeable_reactive_barriers.pdf for the rest. It is simple and fun to read.

You can find past issues of "Environmental Enlightenment" at www.amiadini.com with wealth of information about issues concerning assessment and cleanup of contamination in the subsurface soil and groundwater.

Call me if you have any questions. There are no obligations.

Ami Adini
Ami Adini & Associates, Inc.
Environmental Consultants
Underground Storage Tank Experts
818-824-8102; 818-824-8112 fax

Ami Adini is a mechanical engineer, California Registered Environmental Assessor, Level II, and president of AMI ADINI & ASSOCIATES, INC. (AA&A), an environmental consulting firm specializing in all phases of environmental site assessments and rehabilitation of contaminated sites. AA&A specializes in practical solutions to environmental concerns using the highest standards of ethics and integrity while providing its clients with maximum return on their investments.