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Effect of Ionic Strength and Index Cation on the Sorption of Phenanthrene


Sorption characteristics of phenanthrene were studied in batch equilibrium experiments with 32 Australian soils that varied widely in physicochemical properties. Sorption of phenanthrene varied widely among the soils and was generally nonlinear, with the nonlinearity index (n) of the Freundlich isotherm varying from 0.62 to 1.01. Simple regression analyses revealed that total organic carbon (TOC) accounts for about 68 % of the variation in the partition coefficient (K f ) for sorption among the soils at an equilibrium concentration (C e ) of 0.05 mg/L. The organic carbon normalized distribution coefficient (K OC ), varied considerably between soils with >70 % of the variance of logK OC being accounted for by logTOC, clay and log dissolved organic carbon (DOC). These results show that the phenanthrene C e is influenced by both TOC as well as the DOC in soil suspensions. The effects of ionic strength (IS) and index cation were investigated using four contrasting soils. Results show that with an increase in IS from 0.03 to 0.15 M sorption of phenanthrene generally increased in CaCl2 background solutions, whereas the effect was less significant and variable in NaCl background solutions. Sorption of phenanthrene was slightly higher at low IS (0.03 M) with Na+ as index cation compared with that of Ca2+, whereas an opposite trend was observed at higher IS (0.15 M). For two soils high in TOC, the flocculation of endogenous DOC in the presence of Ca2+ reduced the influence of background electrolyte and resulted in a more linear sorption isotherm as well as higher sorption capacity. This trend was more significant with Ca2+ relative to Na+.

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The authors would like to thank the University of SA and Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) for the award of scholarship and funding. The authors are grateful for the infrastructural support from the Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation (CERAR), University of South Australia.

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Correspondence to Ravi Naidu.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Remediation of Site Contamination

Guest Editors: R Naidu, Euan Smith, MH Wong, Megharaj Mallavarapu, Nanthi Bolan, Albert Juhasz, and Enzo Lombi

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Duan, L., Naidu, R. Effect of Ionic Strength and Index Cation on the Sorption of Phenanthrene. Water Air Soil Pollut 224, 1700 (2013).

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  • Soil properties
  • Phenanthrene
  • Sorption
  • Organic carbon