Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 178, Issue 1–4, pp 131–143 | Cite as

Biodegradation of Organic Chemicals in Soil/Water Microcosms System: Model Development

  • Ling Liu
  • James A. Tindall
  • Michael J. Friedel
  • Weixian Zhang


The chemical interactions of hydrophobic organic contaminants with soils and sediments may result in strong binding and slow subsequent release rates that significantly affect remediation rates and endpoints. In order to illustrate the recalcitrance of chemical to degradation on sites, a sorption mechanism of intraparticle sequestration was postulated to operate on chemical remediation sites. Pseudo-first order sequestration kinetics is used in the study with the hypothesis that sequestration is an irreversibly surface-mediated process. A mathematical model based on mass balance equations was developed to describe the fate of chemical degradation in soil/water microcosm systems. In the model, diffusion was represented by Fick’s second law, local sorption-desorption by a linear isotherm, irreversible sequestration by a pseudo-first order kinetics and biodegradation by Monod kinetics. Solutions were obtained to provide estimates of chemical concentrations. The mathematical model was applied to a benzene biodegradation batch test and simulated model responses correlated well compared to measurements of biodegradation of benzene in the batch soil/water microcosm system. A sensitivity analysis was performed to assess the effects of several parameters on model behavior. Overall chemical removal rate decreased and sequestration increased quickly with an increase in the sorption partition coefficient. When soil particle radius, a, was greater than 1 mm, an increase in radius produced a significant decrease in overall chemical removal rate as well as an increase in sequestration. However, when soil particle radius was less than 0.1 mm, an increase in radius resulted in small changes in the removal rate and sequestration. As pseudo-first order sequestration rate increased, both chemical removal rate and sequestration increased slightly. Model simulation results showed that desorption resistance played an important role in the bioavailability of organic chemicals in porous media. Complete biostabilization of chemicals on remediation sites can be achieved when the concentration of the reversibly sorbed chemical reduces to zero (i.e., undetectable), with a certain amount of irreversibly sequestrated chemical left inside the soil particle solid phase.


biodegradation organic chemicals sequestration soil/water microcosms system mathematical model 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, M. (1977). Introduction to soil microbiology. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, M. (1995). How toxic are toxic chemicals in soil? Environmental Science & Technology, 29, 2713–2717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angley, J. T., Brusseau, L., Miller, W. L., & Delfino, J. J. (1992). Nonequilibrium sorption and aerobic biodegradation of dissolved alkylbenzenes during transport in aquifer material: Column experiments and evaluation of a coupled-process model. Environmental Science & Technology, 26, 1404–1410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ball, W. P., Euehler, E., Harmon, T. C., & et al. (1990). Characterization of a sandy aquifer materials at the grain scale. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 5, 253–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ball, W. P., & Roberts, P. V. (1991). Long-term sorption of halogenated organic chemicals by aquifer material. 2. Intraparticle diffusion. Environmental Science & Technology, 25, 1237–1249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bollag, J. M., & Loll, M. J. (1983). Incorporation of xenobiotics into soil humus. Experientia, 39, 1221–1231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bollag, J. M., & Myers, C. (1992). Detoxification of aquatic and terrestrial sites through binding of pollutants to humic substances. Science of the Total Environment, 117, 357–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bouwer, E. J., & McCarty, P. L. (1985). Utilization rates of trace halogenated organic compounds in acetate-supported biofilms. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 17, 1564–1571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brusseau, M. L., & Rao, P. S. C. (1991). Influence of sorbate structure on nonequilibrium sorption of organic compounds. Environmental Science & Technology, 25, 1501–1506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chung, G. Y., McCoy, B. J., & Scow, K. M. (1993). Criteria to assess when biodegradation is kinetically limited by intraparticle diffusion and sorption. Biotechnology and Bioengineering, 41, 625–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dykaar, B. E., & Kitanidis, P. K. (1996). Macrotransport of a biologically reacting solute through porous media. Water Resources Research, 32, 307–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gong, Y., & Depinto, J. V. (1998). Desorption rates of two PCB congeners from suspended sediments. II. Model simulation. Water Research, 32(8), 2518–2532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hatzinger, P. B., & Alexander, M. (1995). Effect of aging of chemicals in soil on their biodegradability and extractability. Environmental Science & Technology, 29, 537–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Karickhoff, S. W. (1984). Organic pollutant sorption in aquatic systems. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 110, 707–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lawrence, G. P., Payne, D., & Greenland, D. (1979). Pore size distribution in critical point and freeze dried aggregates from clay subsoils. J Soil Scoi, 30, 499–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Linz, D., & Nakles, D. (1997). Environmental acceptable endpoints in soils. Annapolis: Maryland American Academy of Environmental Engineers.Google Scholar
  17. Luthy, R. G., & et al. (1997). Sequestration of hydrophobic organic contaminants by geosorbents. Environmental Science & Technology, 31(12), 3341–3347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mackay, D., Shiu, W. Y., & Ma, K. C. (1992). Illustrated handbook of physical-chemical properties and environmental fate for organic chemicals. Volume 2. Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, Polychlorinated dioxins, and dibenzofurans. 121 South Main Street, Chelsea, Michigan. USA: Lewis.Google Scholar
  19. Mihelcic, J. R., Lueking, D. R., Mitzell, R., & Stapleton, J. M. (1993). Bioavailability of sorbed- and separate-phase chemicals. Biodegradation, 4(3), 141–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Miller, M. E., & Alexander, M. (1991). Kinetics of bacterial degradation of benzylamine in a Montmorillonite suspension. Environmental Science & Technology, 25, 240–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mohammed, N., & Allayla, R. I. (1997). Modeling transport and biodegradation of BTX compounds in saturated sandy soil. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 54, 155–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ogram, A. V., Jessup, R. E., Ou, L. T., & Rao, P. S. C. (1985). Effects of sorption on biological degradation rates of (2,4-dichlorophenoxy) acetic acid in soils. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 49, 582–587.Google Scholar
  23. Pedit, J. A., & Miller, C. T. (1994). Heterogeneous sorption processes in subsurface systems. 2. Diffusion modeling approaches. Environmental Science & Technology, 29, 1766–1772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Pignatello, J. J., & Xing, B. (1996). Mechanisms of slow sorption of organic chemicals to natural particles. Environmental Science & Technology, 30, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rijnaarts, H. H. M., Bachmann, A., Jumelet, J., & Zehnder, A. (1990). Effect of desorption and intraparticle mass transfer on the aerobic biomineralization of α-hexachlorocyclohexane in a contaminated calcareous soil. Environmental Science & Technology, 24, 1349–1354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Scow, K. M., Smikins, S., & Alexander, M. (1986). Kinetics of mineralization of organic compounds at low concentrations in soil. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 51, 1028–1035.Google Scholar
  27. Smith, G. D. (1985). Numerical solution of partial differential equations: Finite difference methods (p. 335). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Wu, S. C., & Gschwend, P. M. (1986). Sorption kinetics of hydrophobic organic compounds to natural sediments and soils. Environmental Science & Technology, 20, 717–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zhang, W., Bouwer, E., Wilson, L., and Durant, N. (1995). Biotransformation of aromatic hydrocarbons in subsurface biofilms. Water Science and Technology, 31(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Zhang, W., & Bouwer, E. (1997). Biodegradation of benzene, toluene and naphthalene in soil-water slurry microcosms. Biodegradation, 8, 167–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ling Liu
    • 1
  • James A. Tindall
    • 2
  • Michael J. Friedel
    • 3
  • Weixian Zhang
    • 4
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Hydrology, Water Resources and Hydraulic EngineeringHohai UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.National Research ProgramU.S. Geological SurveyDenverUSA
  3. 3.Geologic DivisionU.S. Geological SurveyDenverUSA
  4. 4.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringLehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA

Personalised recommendations