Structural Selectivity of PAH Removal Processes in Soil, and the Effect of Metal Co-Contaminants

Michael E. Deary*, Chinedu C. Ekumankama, Stephen P. Cummings

*Corresponding author for this work

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Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) form a convenient structural series of molecules with which to examine the selectivity exerted on their removal by soil microbiota. It is known that there is an inverse relationship between PAH molecular size and degradation rates in soil. In this paper, we look at how the magnitude of the slope for this relationship, m, can be used as an indicator of the effect of metal co-contaminants on degradation rates across a range of PAH molecular weights. The analysis utilises data collected from our previous microcosm study (Deary, M.E.; Ekumankama, C.C.; Cummings, S.P. Development of a novel kinetic model for the analysis of PAH biodegradation in the presence of lead and cadmium co-contaminants. Journal of Hazard Materials 2016, 307, 240−252) in which we followed the degradation of the 16 US EPA PAHs over 40 weeks in soil microcosms taken from a high organic matter content woodland soil. The soil was amended with a PAH mixture (total concentration of 2166 mg kg−1) and with a range of metal co-contaminant concentrations (lead, up to 782 mg kg−1; cadmium up to 620 mg kg−1; and mercury up to 1150 mg kg−1). It was found that the magnitude of m increases in relation to the applied concentration of metal co-contaminant, indicating a more adverse effect on microbial communities that participate in the removal of higher molecular weight PAHs. We conclude that m is a useful parameter by which we might measure the differential effects of environmental contaminants on the PAH removal. Such information will be useful in planning and implementing remediation strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23
Number of pages12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2022


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