Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 2594–2602 | Cite as

Microscopy in addition to chemical analyses and ecotoxicological assays for the environmental hazard assessment of coal tar-polluted soils

  • Christine Lors
  • Jean-François Ponge
  • Denis Damidot
Research Article


Chemical analysis of soils contaminated with coal tar indicated that most organic compounds, and particularly PAHs, were contained in coarser particles (> 200 μm). Microscopic observations of this fraction, carried out on polished sections, reported the presence of organic particles in addition to mineral particles. Some organic particles had a very low porosity, and their microstructure did not evolve during biotreatment. Alternatively, other organic particles had a large porosity composed of an interconnected pore network that was open to coal tar surface and thus in contact with soil water. Interconnected porosity seemed to increase during biotreatment in relation to a decrease in the amount of organic compounds. The amount of open porosity in contact with soil water was expected to increase the desorption rate of PAHs. Consequently, the environmental hazard could depend on the amount of open porosity in addition to chemical properties of organic particles, such as their concentration in PAHs. Thus, microscopy can be complementary to chemical analysis and ecotoxicological assays to assess the best strategy for remediation but also to follow the advancement of a biotreatment.


Coal tar PAHs Environmental hazard assessment Ecotoxicity Pore network Microscopy 



The present study was performed with a financial support from the ADEME (Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie, France), which is greatly acknowledged. We thank Total (France) and Charbonnages de France (France) for putting industrial sites at our disposal.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IMT Lille Douai, University Lille, EA 4515 – LGCgE – Laboratoire de Génie Civil et Géoenvironnement, Département Génie Civil & EnvironnementalDouaiFrance
  2. 2.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, CNRS UMR 7179BrunoyFrance

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