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Permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) emerged during the 1990s as a potentially effective in situ remedial technology for the treatment of contaminated groundwater that has been impacted by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). A PRB prevents or reduces contaminant flux whilst allowing groundwater to flow through the barrier.

Permeable reactive barriers (PRBs) are installed across the flow path of a contaminated groundwater plume, allowing the water portion of the plume to flow through the wall. These barriers allow the passage of water while prohibiting the movement of contaminants by employing treatment agents within the wall such as zero-valent metals (usually zero-valent iron), chelators, sorbents, compost, and microbes emplaced across the flow path of the contaminant plume. The contaminants are either degraded to non toxic end products or retained in a concentrated form by the barrier material, which may need to be replaced periodically.

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