, Volume 275, Issue 1-2, pp 31-42

Kinetics of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Degradation in Long-term Polluted Soils during Bioremediation

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Bioremediation experiments with ten different soil samples from former industrial sites which were long-term polluted with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were carried out using outdoor pot trials. The degradation of 15 PAHs according to the US EPA was investigated for 168 weeks through repeated soil sampling and determination of the total PAH concentration. On average, degradation was largest for acenaphthene (88%; 63 to 99%) and smallest for anthracene (22%; no significant degradation to 89%). For most of the PAH single substances, degradation kinetics were characterised by a first initial phase of fast degradation. In a subsequent second phase, degradation diminished and residual PAH concentrations were approached within 168 weeks, resulting in a similar PAH pattern in the ten soil samples. Degradation kinetics was calculated through the selection of the appropriate differential rate equation from a set of seven equations. Kinetics of PAH degradation was best fitted by single and two coupled first order exponential equations with median R² of 0.71 (0.01 to 1.00). Degradation rate constants of the rapid phase (k 1) ranged from 0.05×10−2 week−1 for benzo[k]fluoranthene to 18.3 week−1 for naphthalene and for the subsequent slow degradation phase (k 2) they ranged from 0.01×10−2 week−1 for benzo[a]anthracene to 2.3×10−2 week−1 for fluoranthene. Degradation was governed by desorption and diffusion processes of different rates, while microbial activity did not influence the kinetics. Median disappearance times (DT50) ranged from 6.1 weeks for naphthalene to 522 weeks for benzo[k]fluoranthene. With the exception of the 6-ring PAHs dibenzo[ah]anthracene and indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene, this sequence followed the PAHs’ degree of condensation. The total initial PAH concentration and the residual concentration were correlated with R² of 0.69, with larger initial PAH concentrations leading to larger residual concentrations and degradation rates.