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Hemond, Harold, and Janet Chuang, 1.725J Chemicals in the Environment: Fate and Transport, Fall 2004. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 08 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Chemicals in the Environment: Fate and Transport

Fall 2004

Tropospheric chemical system.
A simplified diagram of the tropospheric chemical system. (Image courtesy of Academic Press: Figure 4-34 in Hemond, H. F., and E. J. Fechner. Chemical Fate and Transport in the Environment. 2nd edition, 2000.)

Course Highlights

This course features a complete set of lecture notes and assignments.

Course Description

This core class in the Environmental M.Eng. program is for all students interested in the behavior of chemicals in the environment. The emphasis is on man-made chemicals; their movement through water, air, and soil; and their eventual fate. Physical transport, as well as chemical and biological sources and sinks, are discussed. Linkages to health effects, sources and control, and policy aspects are discussed and debated.


Course Overview

This course is designed to give students an understanding of processes that govern the behavior of both hazardous and naturally-occurring substances in the environment. The subject includes aspects of intermedia transport, surface and groundwater hydrology, air pollution modeling, degradation processes, human exposure pathways, and monitoring.


Topics covered will include:

  • Control Volumes, Mass Balance, and Advective/Dispersive Transport
  • Chemical Equilibria, Mass Action, Electroneutrality, and Mass Conservation
  • Chemical Kinetics and Partitioning
  • River Transport, Lakes and Wetlands and Estuaries
  • Sediment Transport, Bottom Sediments, Paleolimnology
  • Air-Water Exchange
  • Major Ion Chemistry of Natural Waters
  • Ecosystem Characteristics and Redox Chemistry
  • BOD/DO Modeling and Microbial Kinetics
  • Photochemistry and Hydrolysis
  • Groundwater and Aquifers, Darcy's Law, and Flow Nets
  • Superposition, Capture Curves
  • Transient Well Hydraulics and Transport and Retardation
  • Unsaturated Zone Flow, Biodegradation and Bioremediation
  • Atmospheric Structure and Adiabatic Lapse Rates
  • Global, Synoptic, Local Scale Circulation
  • Gaussian Plume Modeling and Deposition Processes
  • Tropospheric Chemistry and Acid Deposition
  • Stratospheric Chemistry and Radiative Activity of Gases


Readings will be assigned primarily from text. Problem sets will be assigned weekly from the text.


Activities Percentages
In-class Quiz 40%
Homework, Court Case 15%
Final Quiz 45%

All quizzes and exams are in-class, closed-book. One 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of handwritten notes will be permitted (one side for first quiz, both sides for final).


1 Control Volumes
Mass Balance
Advective/Dispersive Transport
2 Chemical Equilibria
Mass Action
Mass Conservation
3 Chemical Kinetics
Problem Set 1: Exercise 1-1, 6, 8, 19, 22 due
4 River Transport  
5 Lakes and Wetlands
Problem Set 2: Exercise 1-5, 12, 15, 25, 27 due
6 Sediment Transport
Bottom Sediments
7 Air-Water Exchange Problem Set 3: Exercise 2-1, 4, 20, 21, 30 due
8 Major Ion Chemistry of Natural Waters  
9 Ecosystem Characteristics
Redox Chemistry
Problem Set 4: Exercise 2-6, 11, 32, 47, 58 due
10 Redox Chemistry in Ecosystems  
11 BOD/DO Modeling
Microbial Kinetics
Problem Set 5: Exercise 2-17, 35, 52, 56, 57 due
12 Photochemistry
  Quiz 1  
13 Groundwater and Aquifers
Darcy's Law
Flow Nets
14 Wells
Capture Curves
Problem Set 6: Exercise 2-26 and
Exercise 3-1, 2, 7, 9 due
15 Transient Well Hydraulics
Transport and Retardation
16 Unsaturated Zone Flow
Problem Set 7: Exercise 3-30, 31, 33, 38, 41 due
17 Biodegradation
18 Atmospheric Structure
Adiabatic Lapse Rates
Problem Set 8: Exercise 3-14, 16, 23, 36, 37 due
19 Global, Synoptic, Local Scale Circulation  
20 Gaussian Plume Modeling
Deposition Processes
Problem Set 9: Exercise 4-5, 6, 14, 36, 37 due
21 Tropospheric Chemistry
Acid Deposition
22 Stratospheric Chemistry
Radiative Activity of Gases
Problem Set 10: Exercise 4-3, 27, 32, 40, 42 due
23 Court Case I  
24 Court Case II Problem Set 11: Exercise 4-26, 28, 30 due   Tell A Friend