Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 13, Issue 7, pp 1284–1300 | Cite as

PCB partitioning during sediment remobilization—a 1D column experiment

  • Maha ChalhoubEmail author
  • Laurence Amalric
  • Solène Touzé
  • Pierre Gallé
  • Pascal E. Reiller
  • Noëlle Doucet
  • Blandine Clozel
  • Philippe Bataillard



Remobilization of polychlorobiphenyl (PCB)-contaminated sediments by anthropogenic activities (e.g. dredging) or natural flow conditions could lead to the release of PCBs into the water column and consequently increase the availability of PCBs to benthic organisms. The fate of the released PCBs following such events is not well understood and such knowledge is necessary for the management of contaminated sediments. The objective of this study was to understand the processes that control the fate of PCBs following remobilization of field-aged contaminated sediments.

Materials and methods

Sediments contaminated with PCBs collected from Lake Bourget (Savoie, France) were resuspended in a column experiment. The relationships between physical–chemical parameters—i.e. suspended particulate matter, pH, inorganic and organic carbon content, redox-sensitive species and the concentrations of dissolved PCBs both in the water column and in the interstitial water of the sediment—were investigated so as to determine the key processes controlling PCB fate.

Results and discussion

Following the simulated resuspension event (SRE), dissolved PCBs were found in much higher concentrations in the water column than under stationary conditions. Desorption of PCBs from the sediment depended on the degree of the hydrophobicity of the PCBs and the initial PCB content in the sediment. Principal component analysis showed that the variations in the concentrations of released PCBs over time and space closely followed those of suspended particulate matter (SPM) and not those of redox conditions. The partitioning behaviour of PCBs on SPM showed that equilibrium state was not attained within 40 days following the SRE. A particle size fractionation study, before and after remobilization of the sediment, showed the presence of PCBs in every fraction of the sediment, but with higher amounts in large particles with high organic matter content and in the finest fractions. Remobilization of contaminated sediment did not affect this distribution profoundly but a significant enrichment in PCBs of the clay-sized fraction was observed in the re-settled sediment.


Sediment resuspension induced non-equilibrium conditions in the water column for more than 5 weeks and led to the enrichment with PCBs of the newly formed surface bed sediment. This enrichment was due to the preferential re-sorption of PCBs on clay-sized particles during the SRE and to the physical segregation and accumulation of the less dense particles at the surface of the sediment column; such particles thought to be the principal carriers of contaminants. These changes concerned <0.05 % of the total PCB content.


Partition coefficient PCB Resuspension Field-aged contaminated sediment Suspended particulate matter 



This work was made possible thanks to a post-doctoral position granted by the CARNOT fund (French National Agency for Research) aiming to investigate new issues stemming from the PCB AXELERA project. PCB AXELERA was initiated by the Pôle de Compétitivité Chimie-Environnement AXELERA and is granted by the Fond Unique Interministériel of the French government and by the Grenoble—Alpes Métropole collectivity. The authors would like to thank the French National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (IRSTEA) and the National Reference Laboratory LABERCA for their help in sample collection and analysis of Lake Bourget. Benjamin Girardeau helped to develop the stir-bar sorptive extraction method used in this study. The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments on initial versions of this article.

Supplementary material

11368_2013_683_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (148 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 147 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maha Chalhoub
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laurence Amalric
    • 1
  • Solène Touzé
    • 1
  • Pierre Gallé
    • 1
  • Pascal E. Reiller
    • 2
  • Noëlle Doucet
    • 3
  • Blandine Clozel
    • 1
  • Philippe Bataillard
    • 1
  1. 1.BRGMOrleansFrance
  2. 2.Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives, DEN, DANS, DPC, SEARS, LANIEGif-sur-Yvette CEDEXFrance
  3. 3.ARTELIAEchirollesFrance

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